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Sex offender's words to therapist cannot be used as evidence

A sex offender’s private communications with his psychotherapist generally may not be used as evidence to commit him to a mental institution as a sexually violent predator, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday.

In a decision written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the state high court said a trial judge erred by ordering a therapist to disclose statements made by a parolee during state-required therapy.

The therapist testified at a trial to determine whether Ramiro Gonzales, a Santa Clara County sex offender, was a violent predator who should be indefinitely confined to a state mental hospital. The therapist disclosed that Gonzales had admitted to molesting 16 children and that alcohol made it difficult for him to control his urges.

Although the therapist’s testimony should not have been admitted, the court found that it was not pivotal to a jury’s decision that Gonzales was a predator and that he should remain confined while pressing other appeals.

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-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

 
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