Texas Court of Appeals Affirms Order of Civil Commitment for Allegedly Sexually Violent Individual with Brain Injury

Above: Texas’ Civil Commitment Center, which opened in 2015, is located in Littlefield, Texas and houses people who the court has deemed to be sexually violent predators. Image Source: Lubbock Avalanche Journal

On December 17, 2020, a Texas Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s order to commit Stephen Bordages for being a “sexually violent predator.” Bordages suffers from a brain injury, which some testifying psychologists claimed could have led to his sexually violent behavior.

The State of Texas filed a petition to civilly commit Bordages under the Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) statute. Following a trial, the commitment was ordered. Bordages appealed.

At trial, two psychologists and one psychiatrist testified.

The first psychologist, who specialized in forensic psychology and neuropsychology, determined that Bordages has a “behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence.” She testified that Borages’ 1987 motor vehicle accident caused a traumatic brain injury which led to his sexually violent behavior. Bordages claimed that the accident did affect his short-term memory and cause depression but denied that it caused any impulse or behavioral control issues. The psychologist diagnosed Bordages with “exhibitionistic disorder, paraphilia, frotteuristic paraphilia, and unspecified paraphilia.” According to this first psychologist, Bordages has not has sex offender treatment “because he claims he does not need it.”

The psychiatrist agreed with the first psychologist, testifying that Bordages’ behavior was due to “a paraphilia, a brain injury, or a combination of both.” She opined that “Bordages uses his brain injury as an excuse, bringing it up whenever he faces a consequence for his bad behavior” and that “while brain injuries can affect a person’s sexual urges, the offenses for which Bordages was convicted were not described as impulsive.” Additionally, while Bordages could have a mild neurocognitive disorder because of his brain injury, he received treatment for the brain injury, which did not stop his offenses. Because of this, the psychiatrist testified that Bordages fits into the extremely dangerous category of offenders that the SVP statute seeks to identify.

The testimony of the second psychologist differed from the prior two experts’. She concluded that Bordages does not suffer from a behavioral abnormality making him likely to engage in sexual violence. She testified that Bordages’ behavior was consistent with a traumatic brain injury, and that “sex offender treatment is not a typical treatment for a traumatic brain injury.” Because of this, she asserted that while Bordages may be at moderate to high risk to reoffend, he does not fall into the category of SVP offenders.

The appeals court denied Bordages’ appeal and affirmed the commitment order. “Having weighed all the evidence in the record, we conclude that the jury could have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Bordages was a repeat sexually violent offender who suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence, and that there is no injustice in the jury’s verdict that would require a new trial.”

Key words: Texas, traumatic brain injury, sexual violence, sexually violent predator

Citation: In re Commitment of Bordages, 2020 WL 7391555

This post is the 35th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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