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COA affirms 5 child molesting convictions

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The admission of testimony by a licensed clinical psychologist at a man’s child molestation trial in Steuben County was not a fundamental error, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday.

David E. Lyons appealed his five convictions of Class A felony child molesting related to incidents with his niece in 2004 through 2006 when the girl was around 10 years old. In 2010, after developing a number of emotional problems, K.F. told nurses at a hospital that her uncle had been molesting her.

At Lyons’ jury trial in 2011, Dr. Judith Williams, a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive experience counseling child victims of sexual abuse, testified on behalf of the state. While she had counseled K.F. for a short period of time, her testimony was not specifically related to K.F.’s treatment and, instead, was about general characteristics, mannerisms, and behaviors common among child abuse victims.

Lyons only objected once to part of her testimony, so on appeal, he brought a fundamental error challenge. He claimed that his convictions should be reversed because Williams based her responses on speculation.

In David E. Lyons v. State of Indiana, 76A03-1112-CR-582, the judges found Lyons mistakenly contended that Williams’ testimony was “scientific testimony” and is governed by Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993).  However, Williams’ testimony was actually “specialized knowledge,” under Ind. Evidence Rule 702(a), and any weakness or problems in the testimony only go to the weight of the testimony, not to its admissibility.

Williams’ testimony was about matters commonly observed in sexual abuse victims based on her own practice and in psychological literature. Lyons was free to cross-examine her regarding studies she cited, but did not, Judge John Baker wrote.

The judges also disagreed with Lyons’ assertion that the admission of Williams’ testimony violates the principles set forth in Steward v. State, 652 N.E.2d 490 (Ind. 1995). Admission of her testimony was not a fundamental error, and Lyons’ convictions and 150-year sentence is affirmed.

 

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