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Expert Testimony in CSC Cases

Child abuse assessment is a proper type of expert opinion, but there are specific requirements for qualifying an expert in this field. Because of the danger of improper bolstering (i.e., the child gave a compelling indication of abuse), trial courts should avoid qualifying as experts the actual person who interviewed the child. Rather, it is better practice to have an independent expert testify. · State v. Anderson, 413 S.C. 212 (2015)

The Supreme Court expresses its hesitancy with qualifying experts in forensic interviewing. Because expert testimony is usually given more significance, courts should be careful in using forensic interviews. These types of interviews are helpful as a law enforcement tool, however, they can easily stray into vouching for the credibility of a witness. The Court reiterates that it is usually unnecessary to qualify the interviewer as an expert, because they are testifying to their personal knowledge and no specialized training is required. The Court stated that they “can envision no circumstance where their qualification as an expert at trial would be appropriate.” When admitting forensic interviews or testimony related to the interview, courts should avoid testimony that the child was told to be truthful. An interviewer may testify to the circumstances surrounding the interview, personal observations, and other statements that the interviewer has personal knowledge of. This is not to say that an expert may never be qualified in forensic interviewing, however, the Court held that the “label of expert should be jealously guarded by the court and never loosely bandied about.” · State v. Kromah, 401 S.C. 340 (2013) See also State v. Baker, 411 S.C. 583 (2015) (Toal, C.J., dissenting)

An expert should not vouch for the veracity of a child’s accusations. · State v. Jennings, 394 S.C. 473 (2011). It is improper witness bolstering for an expert to testify that a child witness gave a “compelling indication of abuse.” · State v. Smith, 411 S.C. 161 (Ct. App. 2014). “In Schumpert, we held that both expert testimony and behavioral evidence are admissible as rape trauma evidence to prove a sexual offense occurred where the probative value of such evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect.” · State v. White, 361 S.C. 407 (2004)


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