Buffalo County Department of Health & Human Services v. Jennifer C., 2012AP1564, District 3, 9/25/12
Though not “independently admissible,” a long list of damaging items related to Jennifer’s background (such as theparent’s father’s sexual abuse of his daughters, and Jennifer’s own emotional and sexual abuse by her adoptive parents) was admissible to show the basis for an expert’s opinion that Jennifer was unlikely to meet conditions for return of her children:
¶16 Wisconsin Stat. § 907.03, which is entitled, “Bases of opinion testimony by experts,” provides:
The facts or data in the particular case upon which an expert bases an opinion or inference may be those perceived by or made known to the expert at or before the hearing. If of a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the particular field in forming opinions or inferences upon the subject, the facts or data need not be admissible in evidence in order for the opinion or inference to be admitted. Facts or data that are otherwise inadmissible may not be disclosed to the jury by the proponent of the opinion or inference unless the court determines that their probative value in assisting the jury to evaluate the expert’s opinion or inference substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.
¶17 Here, the circuit court determined Jennifer’s background information was admissible because it was relevant to Stein’s opinions. Specifically, the court observed that this information gave the jury insight as to “why experts one way or the other think [Jennifer] can’t” meet her conditions for return. We conclude the evidence was admissible pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 907.03 and the court offered a reasonable explanation for admitting the evidence. See Tara P., 252 Wis. 2d 179, ¶6. Although the circuit court did not explicitly cite § 907.03 when determining Stein would be allowed to testify about the information that provided the basis for his opinions, it was not required to do so. See State v. Keith, 216 Wis. 2d 61, 76, 573 N.W.2d 888 (Ct. App. 1997). The court did not err by admitting the evidence of Jennifer’s past.
The court’s analysis relies on the current version of § 907.03, which allows “otherwise inadmissible [facts or data to] be disclosed to the jury [if] the court determines that their probative value in assisting the jury to evaluate the expert’s opinion or inference substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect,” ¶16.