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State v. Brown

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 05-30-2013
Case #: A144344
Wollheim, J. for the Court; Schuman P.J.; and Nakamoto,J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A144344.pdf

Evidence: Diagnosis of a victim as sexually abused or “highly concerning for sexual abuse” requires physical evidence to support it in order to be admitted into evidence since such a diagnosis has more than a little likelihood to affect a jury’s verdict.

Brown appealed his convictions for second- and third-degree sexual assaults of two teenagers, on the grounds that the trial court erred in admitting the victims’ diagnoses as sexually abused and “highly concerning for sexual abuse,” respectively. Brown argued that sexual abuse should not be admissible without physical evidence to support it, citing that a jury may be overly swayed by an expert’s opinion. The State conceded that the trial court erred in admitting the diagnoses. As to the first victim, on whom no physical evidence was recovered, the State conceded that the proper remedy was to reverse and remand the conviction. Regarding the second victim, on whom physical evidence of sexual assault was recovered, however, the State argued the error was harmless because independent physical evidence supported the jury’s conclusion. The Court of Appeals held that, despite the physical evidence on one victim, the diagnosis had more than a little likelihood to affect the verdict, so the error was not harmless. Reversed and remanded.