Women and Justice: Court: Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Domestic Case Law

Commonwealth v. Conklin Pennsylvania Supreme Court (2006)

Sexual violence and rape

Defendant was convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, incest, indecent assault, indecent exposure and corruption of a minor. The defendant had sexually abused his daughter from the ages of six to nine. The nature of the defendant’s crimes required a determination if he was a sexually violent predator under Megan’s Law II (42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9792). At trial, a licensed clinical social worker and Board member assessed the defendant and concluded that he met the criteria of a sexually violent predator. The defendant’s evaluator was not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but the trial court found him qualified to testify as to the defendant’s status by his experience and training. The court found that the defendant was a sexually violent predator based upon the social worker’s conclusions. On appeal, the defendant argued that he could only be found to be a sexually violent predator by a psychiatrist or psychologist. The court noted that the criteria to assess in making the determination if a person is a sexually violent predator are: whether the offense involved multiple victims; whether the individual used excessive means to achieve the offense; the nature of the sexual contact; the relationship to the victim; the age of the victim; if the offense included any unusual cruelty; the victim’s mental capacity; and any history of prior offenses. The court found that a social worker could assess these factors; it was not necessary for a defendant to be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist.



Commonwealth v. Meals Pennsylvania Supreme Court (2006)

Sexual violence and rape

Here, the defendant pleaded guilty to sexual offenses, namely that he sexually assaulted two daughters of his live-in girlfriend and threatened the younger daughter that he would harm her mother if she reported the assaults. A member of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board assessed the defendant and found him to be a sexually violent predator under Megan’s Law II (42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9795). The court found that the defendant was a pedophile and was a sexually violent predator. The Superior Court subsequently reversed this finding, reasoning that the evidence did not support the defendant’s classification, and the state appealed. On appeal, the court found that the Superior Court improperly required the diagnosis of pedophilia to require more than proof of sexual assault on children. The court reversed this and found that proof of sexual assault on children sufficed to warrant a finding of pedophilia and the defendant was properly classified as a sexually violent predator.