Friday, October 10, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 124

Summary of Decision issued October 10, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Dean v. State

Citation: 2008 WY 124

Docket Number: S-08-0017

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, the Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge.

Representing Appellant Bush: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender, PDP; Tina N. Kerin, Appellate Counsel; Kirk A. Morgan, Senior Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee State: Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jenny Lynn Craig, Assistant Attorney General.

Facts/Discussion: Appellant Dean was convicted of committing a third or subsequent battery against a household member. Dean contended the district court erred in permitting an expert witness to vouch for the credibility and truthfulness (or lack thereof) of witnesses who have been victims of domestic violence (and thus, also Mrs. Dean) as well as in permitting that same expert witness to provide improper character evidence concerning Mr. Dean. The only issue raised in the appeal is whether or not the district court erred in allowing the admission of Thurin’s testimony.
A qualified expert witness may testify about scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge if such testimony will help the jury understand the case. Thurin’s testimony was relatively brief. She acknowledged that she did not know Mrs. Dean and that she was not familiar with any part of the instant case. She opined that victims of domestic abuse frequently suffer from low self-esteem and believe they need the abuser to function in their day-to-day life. On average victims will be abused seven times before they leave the relationship. Victims may be kept isolated and economically deprived. They are sometimes threatened with losing their children or finances. Thurin spoke in generalities about the “cycle of violence” and qualified her descriptions with the caveat that every relationship is different. Mr. Dean objected to questions that Thurin answered about “truth telling” by victims of abuse. The Court quoted liberally from State v. Yusuf where the court in Connecticut stated that expert testimony properly may be admitted to assist the jury in understanding not whether the victim was credible on the witness stand but whether the victim’s conduct was consistent with the pattern and profile of a battered woman. The Court also made note of the case State v. Borelli where the expert testimony was a description of battered woman’s syndrome. In Arcoren v. United States, the appellate court considered a related issue that involved a recantation by a victim. The expert in that case testified as to battered woman syndrome and again the court ruled that it was scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge that would assist the jury to understand the evidence.

Because Ms. Thurin’s expert testimony did not purport to vouch for the credibility of Mrs. Dean, nor did it impugn the character of Mr. Dean, the Court found no error requiring reversal of Mr. Dean’s conviction


J. Hill delivered the decision.


[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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