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2011-UP-202 - In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Fred Smith

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Fred Smith, III, Appellant.


Appeal From Cherokee County
J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2011-UP-202 
Submitted May 1, 2011 – Filed May 3, 2011


AFFIRMED


Appellate Defender LaNelle Cantey DuRant, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, Assistant Attorney General R. Westmoreland Clarkson, and Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, Jr., all of Columbia, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Fred Smith, III, appeals his commitment to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health pursuant to a jury's finding he was a sexually violent predator (SVP) under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (the SVP Act).  Smith argues the trial court committed reversible error by limiting his cross-examination of the State's forensic psychologist regarding the conditions of his expected probation.  He contends that limitation violated his right to a meaningful cross-examination and excluded relevant evidence regarding alternate sources of treatment.  We affirm.[1]

The proceedings for committing inmates under the SVP Act are civil in nature.  In re Luckabaugh, 351 S.C. 122, 135, 568 S.E.2d 338, 344 (2002).  "[A]lthough historically limited to criminal prosecutions, [the right to confront one's witnesses] has been applied in the civil context" under a procedural due process analysis.  S.C. Dep't Soc. Serv. v. Holden, 319 S.C. 72, 78, 459 S.E.2d 846, 849 (1995) (citations omitted).  Within that analysis, "due process is not violated if there has been a meaningful opportunity to be heard."  Id. at 78, 459 S.E.2d at 849-50 (citation omitted).  Moreover, "[t]he scope of cross-examination rests largely in the discretion of the trial court."  Watson ex rel. Watson v. Chapman, 343 S.C. 471, 482, 540 S.E.2d 484, 489 (Ct. App. 2000).  "To warrant the reversal of a limitation placed on the scope of cross-examination by the trial court, a manifest abuse of discretion and prejudice must be demonstrated."  Duncan v. Ford Motor Co., 385 S.C. 119, 133, 682 S.E.2d 877, 884 (Ct. App. 2009).  Whether an error is prejudicial depends upon the importance of the witness's testimony, whether the testimony was cumulative, the presence or absence of corroborating or contradicting testimony, the extent of cross-examination permitted, and the strength of the opposing party's case.  State v. Mizzell, 349 S.C. 326, 333-34, 563 S.E.2d 315, 318-19 (2002) (citation omitted).

Here, (1) Smith was given a meaningful opportunity to be heard and (2) no prejudice occurred in limiting Smith's cross-examination.  Smith extensively cross-examined the forensic psychologist about sex-offender programs in general and whether they could reduce the likelihood of an inmate's recidivism.  Moreover, the forensic psychologist testified about a psychological report and actuarial risk analysis he performed on Smith and suggested proper probation programs could reduce Smith's likelihood for re-offending.  The forensic psychologist also provided detailed testimony about Smith's lengthy criminal history and psychological problems.  Accordingly, the trial court properly limited the cross-examination.

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, WILLIAMS, and THOMAS, JJ., concur.


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.