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Expert Testimony – Memory and Suggestibility of Child Witness

State v. Steven G. Walters, 2003 WI App 24, reversed on other grds., 2004 WI 18
For Walters: Jenelle L. Glasbrenner, David A. Danz

Issue/Holding:

¶28. Again, the admissibility of expert testimony is committed to the discretion of the trial court. Friedrich, 135 Wis. 2d at 15. At the offer of proof hearing, Walters’s proposed expert, Dr. Underwager, testified about his ability to render an opinion about the type of interviewing the officer used in questioning the alleged victims. Dr. Underwager testified that he would address the quality of the investigative techniques used in this case, indicating that police interviews of the victims failed “to conform to generally accepted guidelines on how to perform investigatory interviews in cases of alleged child abuse.”

¶29. The trial court properly exercised its discretion in granting the State’s motion to exclude Dr. Underwager’s testimony. In doing so, the trial court provided three bases. First, the trial court found that the majority of Dr. Underwager’s testimony would cover matters within the knowledge and general experience of the community which would not require expert testimony. In addition, the trial court found that Dr. Underwager’s proffered testimony would not have highlighted specific examples of improper techniques used by the police nor explained how these techniques could have affected the children’s statements. Finally, the trial court concluded that because the State was planning on using live witnesses and would not rely on the children’s statements to police, evidence regarding the interviewing techniques would be, at best, minimally relevant. On this issue, the trial court considered the relevant facts, applied a correct standard of law and arrived at a reasonable result through a rational thought process, and we affirm. See Peters, 192 Wis. 2d at 685.

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