Monday, January 26, 2009

Expert Improperly Excluded

The Tennessee Supreme Court held that a trial court had committed error in a case where the defendant had been charged with sexual contact with his stepdaughter. The defendant contends that he was asleep when the alleged conduct took place and sought to present expert medical testimony to support his defense. From the court's web page:

This appeal involves the admissibility of expert testimony regarding a sleep parasomnia involving sexual behavior. A defendant charged with committing sexual acts with his stepdaughter asserted that he could not have formed the required criminal intent because he was asleep at the time and was unaware of what he was doing. To support his defense, the defendant notified the State that he intended to present the testimony of a physician who had diagnosed him as having sleep parasomnia involving sexual behavior. The Criminal Court for Davidson County granted the State’s motion to exclude the physician’s testimony because it was not sufficiently trustworthy and reliable to be presented to the jury. However, the trial court also granted the defendant permission to pursue a Tenn. R. App. P. 9 interlocutory appeal. After the Court of Criminal Appeals declined to hear the appeal, we granted the defendant’s Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application to address whether the trial court had properly discharged its gate-keeping responsibilities with regard to the proffered expert evidence. We have determined that the trial court erred by excluding the physician’s testimony regarding sleep parasomnia.

(MIke Frisch)

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