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Law School Case Brief

State v. Batangan - 71 Haw. 552, 799 P.2d 48 (1990)

Rule:

Expert testimony on a witness' credibility is inappropriate. However, sexual abuse of children is a particularly mysterious phenomenon, and the common experience of the jury may represent a less than adequate foundation for assessing the credibility of a young child who complains of sexual abuse. The pertinent consideration is whether the expert testimony will assist the jury without unduly prejudicing the defendant.

Facts:

Defendant was accused of having sexual contact with the complainant, his daughter. The state presented an expert witness who testified regarding his evaluation of the complainant. The testimony included the expert's opinion that the complainant was believable in her accusations. Defendant objected to the testimony, but the trial court determined that it was admissible. Defendant was found guilty of first degree sexual abuse, but on appeal, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in admitting Dr. Bond's testimony?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court determined that Dr. Bond’s testimony was inadmissible under Haw. R. Evid. 702 and that it was prejudicial to defendant. Although Dr. Bond was qualified, the testimony that he provided regarding the behavior of a sexually abused child was a minor part of the case; however, Dr. Bond did impermissibly leave the jury with the indication that the accusations by the complainant were truthful and believable.

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