State v. Laxton – Case Brief Summary (Wisconsin)

In State v. Laxton, 2002 WI 82, 254 Wis. 2d 185, 647 N.W.2d 784 (Wis. 2002), the jury was instructed that in order to find the defendant eligible for civil commitment, the jury must find that the defendant was "dangerous to others because he has a mental disorder which creates a substantial probability that he will engage in acts of sexual violence." Id. at 795.

The trial judge further instructed the jury that "a substantial likelihood means much more likely than not." Id.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated that an instruction that required proof that due to a mental disorder it is substantially probable that a person will engage in acts of sexual violence if not civilly confined satisfied Crane. See id. at 794-95.

Moreover, the court explicitly stated that it was "settled law" that "substantially probable" meant "much more likely than not." Id. at 793-94.

According to the court, it was specifically this requisite proof of substantial probability that distinguished a typical recidivist from a dangerous sexual offender.