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Sexual assault nurse’s testimony qualifies under medical hearsay exceptions

January 20, 2017

A Huntington County man who molested his young relative cannot challenge the admission of the testimony of the nurse who examined the victim because the testimony qualified under the medical treatment exception to hearsay rules, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided.

After picking up B.E. and taking her to Dairy Queen, Wiley Walters told his 10-year-old relative that they would be staying the night at a hotel, rather in in the house Walters shared with his brother. B.E. objected, and her mother, C.E., was not aware of the change of plans, but Walters took her to the hotel anyway.

While at the hotel, Walters insisted that B.E. take off her clothes and take a bath. When she was finished bathing, Walters insisted that he dry her off and touched her genitalia. B.E. then got dressed, but Walters again ordered her to take off her clothes and get into bed. He then stripped down to only his underwear, got in bed with her, squeezed her breast and buttocks, kissed her and penetrated her genitalia with his finger. Walters also ordered B.E. to touch his genitalia and then performed oral sex on her.

Later, C.E. noticed that her daughter was moody and was “having bout of emotions,” and B.E. eventually told her about the incident with Walters. C.E. called the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department and Walters was charged with two counts of Level 1 felony child molesting and two counts of Level 4 felony child molesting.

During the trial, Shawn Callahan, a sexual assault nurse examiner who examined B.E., testified to what B.E. had told her, but Walters objected to her testimony as hearsay. The Huntington Superior Court overruled the objection pursuant to the medical records exception.

Walters was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to a concurrent term of 50 years. On appeal, Walters argued that the court abused its discretion by admitting Callahan’s hearsay testimony.

But in its affirmation of Walters’ convictions and sentence Friday, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals noted that testimony from sexual assault victims qualifies under the medical records exception to hearsay rules because their statements “assist medical providers in recommending potential treatment for sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy testing, psychological counseling and discharge instructions.”

However, Judge Melissa May also wrote that evidence must be presented to show that a child victim, such as B.E., understands a medical professional’s role and the importance of being truthful. In Walters’ case, May noted, among other things, Callahan was able to recall exactly what and how she explained her role to B.E. and had done so twice before starting the exam.

Further, B.E. was able to articulate that Callahan was “a nurse or doctor,” so May wrote that B.E. did understand the role of a medical professional. Thus, Callahan’s testimony qualified under the medical treatment exception to hearsay rules.

The panel also rejected Walter’s argument that his sentence was inappropriate because he was not given the maximum sentence, but instead received the maximum sentence for each of his convictions that were ordered to run concurrently. Further, May wrote that Walters had violated his position of trust in B.E.’s life and had done so with premeditation.

The case is Wiley W. Walters, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 35A02-1601-CR-168.

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