Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Expert testimony from SANE on causation admissible without threshold showing of reliability
In Beale v. Com., the Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision for the panel of Judges Elder and Felton and Senior Judge Coleman rejected the defendant's challenge to admissibility of the testimony of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on the issue of how the victim's injuries were caused, where the defendant claimed that the circuit court erred by not making preliminary findings as to the reliability of the expert's theories and methods. The opinion says: "we find the scientific method offered by the Commonwealth was of a kind so familiar as to require no such preliminary finding of reliability" and also that "Appellant’s assertion that the science behind Towne’s testimony was unreliable raises an issue of weight, not admissibility." The panel noted that the Court of Appeals "recently held that a SANE may "express an expert opinion on the causation of the injuries in the context of an alleged sexual assault . . . [and] offer her expert opinion as to [the victim’s] injuries in terms of whether or not her injuries were consistent or inconsistent with consensual sexual intercourse," citing Mohajer v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 312, 320-21, 579 S.E.2d 359, 364 (2003).