Justices order new molestation trial after nurse’s statements admitted improperly

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Ruling that statements two 6-year-olds made regarding alleged molestation to a nurse should not have been admitted under the hearsay exception in Ind. Rule of Evidence 803(4), the Indiana Supreme Court reversed two child molesting convictions and ordered a new trial.

In Gerald P. VanPatten v. State of Indiana, 02S03-1205-CR-251, Justice Steven David wrote that “the question before us is whether the record reflects that the child adequately understood the role of the medical professional and the purpose of the visit in order for us to infer that the child was motivated to speak truthfully.”

E.R. spent the night at her friend’s home in August 2009. The next morning, E.R. and S.D. claimed that S.D.’s father, Gerald VanPatten, molested them. The children were interviewed by a Department of Child Services caseworker and later by nurse Joyce Moss at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center. E.R. claimed she was molested that night; S.D. said she had been previously molested. A biological sample was able to be collected from only E.R.

VanPatten was convicted of Class A felony and Class C felony child molesting related to his daughter and Class A felony child molesting related to E.R.

He argued on appeal that Moss’ testimony as to what E.R. and S.D. told her during their examinations should not have been admitted. She testified after S.D. took the stand and recanted her previous allegations. The trial court allowed Moss’ testimony as substantive evidence. He only challenged his convictions related to his daughter.

The two-step analysis outlined in McClain v. State, 675 N.E.2d 329, 331 (Ind. 1996), should be used to determine whether the nurse’s statements could be admitted under Rule 803(4). The first step is whether the declarant is motivated to provide truthful information in order to promote diagnosis and treatment; the second is whether the content of the statement is such that an expert in the field would reasonably rely on it in rendering diagnosis or treatment.

When testifying at trial, Moss had no specific memory of what she said to the two girls prior to interviewing them and there was no testimony to establish the girls knew what telling the truth meant or the importance of it in a medical examination, David wrote.

“This is not to say that Moss did not necessarily discuss these things with S.D. and E.R., or that her work as a sexual assault examiner was somehow deficient. But without that firm indication of reliability in the record, we have no choice on appellate review but to conclude that the statements made to her by S.D. and E.R. should not have been admitted under the hearsay exception found in Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(4), and it was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to do so,” David wrote.

The justices found this to be a reversible error regarding the convictions relating to S.D. and ordered a new trial on the two charges.

Justice Mark Massa concurred in result, in which Justice Loretta Rush joined. Massa wrote that Moss’ statements may possibly be entered under the Protected Person Statute rather than Rule 803(4) and that on remand, if the prosecutor wants to admit Moss’ statements under that statute, the judge will have to conduct a hearing to determine whether those statements have “sufficient indications of reliability.”



  • Nonsense
    Evidence or testimony is either admissable or it isn't. What is this nonsense about can't admit under one statute so we will make another statute that nullifies the other statute but the other statute is still law? There are so many laws on the books in this country that not one person, one lawyer, one prosecutor or one judge that knows what they are! In fact the people that proposed and/or enacted trhese laws don't know what they are either. Ignorance of the law must be an excuse, because the majority of the laws are written and/or passed by ignorant people. There is no doubt in my mind that even those people don't know the law.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.