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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.”

 

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  • 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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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