State v. Nichols

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 08-29-2012
  • Case #: A141527
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Oretega, P.J. for the Court; Brewer, J.; and Sercombe, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under OEC 702, an expert's testimony, if believed, must be of help or assistance to the jury. When the expert fails to show a connection between the opinion and the testimony to the facts, then the court may use it's discretion to exclude it.

Defendant appealed her conviction of murder and other crimes. She assigned error to the trial court, challenging the exclusion of her witness's expert testimony. Specifically, Defendant claims that the expert's testimony would have explained her erratic behavior during the police investigation, and would have been used to show her lack of guilt. When the police interviewed Defendant, she exhibited strange, erratic behavior and inconsistent testimony with other known facts. At trial, Defendant attempted to use her witness's expert testimony to explain that behavior. The State objected to the expert testimony under OEC 401, relevancy, and OEC 702, that this evidence did not provide assistance to the trier of fact. The test under OEC 702 is "whether the expert's testimony, will be of help or assistance to the jury." The trial court found that Defendant's witness failed to establish the connection between Defendant's diagnosis and the behavior the expert tried to explain. This testimony did not meet the test under OEC 702, and was therefore excluded. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in excluding the testimony of the Defendant's mental health counselor. Affirmed.

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