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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 149398 Find in a Library
Title: Expert Witnesses in Abuse Cases
Journal: Advocate  Volume:16  Issue:2  Dated:(April 1994)  Pages:10-13
Author(s): D Niehaus
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 4
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines two cases decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court that pertain to the limitations on so-called expert testimony in child sex abuse cases.
Abstract: In Hall v. Commonwealth (1993), the prosecutor examined a psychologist intern on the subjects of whether, in the intern's professional opinion, the child had been abused, and whether, in her opinion, the child was telling the truth. The court held that a psychologist is not qualified to express an opinion about whether a person has been sexually abused, and no expert witness of any type may vouch for the truthfulness of a witness's out-of-court statements. This invades the province of the jury under the ultimate fact rule. In Alexander v. Commonwealth (1993), there were three forms of misuse of expert witnesses. First, an inexperienced police detective stated that after hearing what the child said, she obtained an arrest warrant because, in her opinion, the child was telling the truth. Second, a social worker was called, and she read the child's out-of- court statements from CHR records made when the worker had interviewed the child. According to the Supreme Court, the trial court had misapplied a previous court ruling in admitting these statements under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. The court held that this evidence was inadmissible as a business record because the child had no business duty to report anything to the social worker; therefore, the statements lacked the truthworthiness necessary to justify admission. Third, the prosecutor asked the physician who examined the alleged child victim whether a small hymen tear was consistent with what the defendant was alleged to have done. According to the Supreme Court, this amounted to an opinion about whether the defendant was guilty of rape. The error was deemed highly prejudicial.
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse; Expert witnesses; Kentucky; Rules of evidence; Sexual assault victims
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