People v. Randolfo Diaz
AD2 order dated June 21, 2011, reversing judgment of conviction and granting a new trial. Decision below: 85 AD3d 1047, 926 NYS2d 128. Pigott, J., granted leave to People January 19, 2012.
ISSUES PRESENTED: (1) Whether the trial court erred in permitting the People's expert, Dr. Eileen Treacy, to testify aobut child sex abuse syndrome, in particular the typical sex offender's "grooming" of the victim. (2) Whether the court erred in precluding testimony about a prior false claim of sexual abuse by the complainant (Assigned counsel Anna Pervukhin & Lynn W.L. Fahey, Appellate Advocates, 2 Recotr street, 10th Floor, NYC 10006).
Issue before the Court: Admissibility of expert testimony about how abusers may act to gain the compliance of a child victim and the preclusion of testimony concerning the complainant's prior false allegations of sexaul abuse against another.
Held: It was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to permit expert testimony regarding the behavior of sexual abusers as the testimony was helpful to explain the complainant's "unusual behavior" (a delay in disclosure) particualrly where it was clear the expert was not familiar with the facts of the case. But the Court reversed due to the preclusion of testimony concerning the complainant's prior false allegations of sexual abuse which should be admitted if they suggest a pattern casting doubt on the vailidity of the charges.
CAL Observes: The Court's basis for the ruling concerning the expert testimony hinged upon the "general terms" in which the expert spoke of the conduct of abusers and victims rather than this information being presented through hypothetical examples offered by the prosecutor which closely mirrorred the abuse that occurred in the particular case. The Court thus distinguished People v. Williams, decided the same day, where such expert testimony was deemed improper. The preclusion of the testimony concerning the complainant's prior false accusations was deemed harmful in light of the "far from overwhleming" evidence which did not include DNA or medical corroboration.