Defendant is charged with depriving persons of their civil rights under color of the law and making a false statement. Defendant allegedly forced one woman to engage in sexual activity with him, and caused another woman to engage in an indecent act to prevent him from pursuing a criminal charge against her. All of this occurred while he was a deputy sheriff.Facts and Issues on Appeal:
This case involves two issues. First, whether or not a psychologist may testify as to her clinical interview with an alleged sexual assault victim, and testify to her opinion regarding whether or not the victim's symptoms are similar to those of sexual abuse victims. Second, if this testimony is allowed, whether the defendant may compel the alleged victim to be examined by his own psychologist. The government intended to offer the expert testimony of a psychologist to testify that the victim suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that PTSD is commonly the result of traumatic events such as sexual assault. The Defendant asserted that this evidence was inadmissible, and that if it were to be admitted, he would have a due process right to conduct his own psychological evaluation of the victim. The trial court allowed the expert testimony and denied the defendant's request to compel a psychological evaluation of the victim. The appellate court agreed with the trial court, reasoning as follows:Ruling & Rationale:
The expert's testimony is admissible because it is relevant, and its probative value is not outweighed by possible unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury. Most jurisdictions allow such expert testimony, as long as the expert's opinion is limited such that the issue of credibility is left to the jury to decide.
The court also held that the defendant is not entitled to an order compelling the victim to be examined by the defendant's own psychologist. The court found the defendant's need for such an evaluation to be "uncompelling." There was no due process issue because the defendant was able to call experts to advise his counsel on how to cross-examine the government's expert, and he could call his own experts to rebut the government's witness on issues of methodology, diagnosis, and conclusions. These experts were also allowed to remain in the courtroom while the victim and the psychologist testified. The court has discretion regarding psychological evaluations and should consider the impact on the individual's well-being and privacy. If an examination could be used to harass the victim, and might deter other victims from coming forward, there is no abuse of discretion in denying a defendant's request.
Submitted By: Kathryn Schwartz -- Law Student