State v. Jesse

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 11-18-2015
  • Case #: A153759
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Flynn, J. for the Court; Lagesen, P.J.; & Duncan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under OEC 702, where a defendant offers expert testimony that explains a connection between the defendant’s behavior and the expert’s opinion of the defendant’s mental health issues, the evidence could help the jury assess the defendant’s behavior and should not be excluded on the basis of a lack of nexus.

Defendant appealed from a conviction for sexual abuse in the first degree, assigning error to the trial court’s exclusion of expert testimony Defendant offered to support his theory of defense, which was that his statements of admission were the product of an adjustment disorder, resulting in false confessions. Following what Defendant described as an accidental touching over his daughter’s diaper, Defendant told his wife of the incident and signed a statement she wrote indicating he admitted to inappropriately touching their daughter. Defendant attended fifteen counseling sessions with a licensed psychologist. Defendant and his wife eventually separated and divorced, and over a year after the incident Defendant’s wife reported statements by their daughter regarding the incident. An interview at CARES Northwest was conducted, and Defendant was subsequently arrested. Before trial, the State filed a motion in limine to exclude the psychologist’s testimony as inadmissible under OEC 702, arguing Defendant could not establish a sufficient nexus between his actions or behaviors and the psychologist's testimony. A pretrial hearing was held, at which the psychologist testified, and the court decided due to a lack of nexus between Defendant’s behavior and his adjustment disorder, Defendant’s adjustment disorder was not relevant to the issues in the case and therefore the psychologist could not testify to Defendant’s diagnosis or profile. Defendant was found guilty by a jury. On appeal, Defendant argued that his offer of proof connected the adjustment disorder diagnosis to his behavior and statements surrounding the incident with his daughter. The Court held, based on the record, the psychologist expert’s testimony could have helped the jury assess Defendant’s behavior and thus was improperly excluded based on lack of nexus. The Court additionally held the error was not harmless due to lack of other strong evidence (aside from the CARES interview, which was taken over a year after the alleged incident and after the child had spoken with her mother about it) and the heavy emphasis the State put on Defendant’s statements during trial and in its closing argument. Reversed and remanded.

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