Expert Testimony From Nurse Practitioner Leads to Life Sentence For Child Sexual Assailant

Court: Court of Appeals of Mississippi
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Nelson v. State
Citation: 2017 Miss. App. LEXIS 183

Facts

The defendant was convicted by the Simpson County Circuit Court of sexual battery and child touching for lustful purposes. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for sexual battery and 10 years for gratification of lust. The defendant filed an appeal after his post-trial motion was denied. He alleged in his appeal that the circuit court had erred in allowing the testimony of expert witnesses even though none of those testimonies were up to the standards of Daubert. He particularly challenged the admissibility of the plaintiff’s nurse practitioner expert witness.

The Nurse Practitioner Expert Witness

The nurse practitioner expert witness was a family nurse practitioner at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In addition to her work as a nurse practitioner, she served as a pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner at the Children’s Safe Center in Jackson, Mississippi. In this role, she was part of a medical team responsible for forensic medical evaluations of pediatric patients suspected of having experienced child maltreatment, including sexual abuse, physical abuse and/or neglect. She obtained her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing and her current area of practice was forensic medicine.

Discussion

Notwithstanding the defendant’s alleged procedural bar, the court found no error in admitting the nurse practitioner expert witness’s testimony. In addition, the court noted that the defendant had not offered a single objection to the trial court when the nurse practitioner was brought before the court as an expert witness. The court observed that “[d]eference to the trial judge’s determination of the reliability of expert testimony is particularly warranted where the defendant does not object to the admissibility of the expert’s testimony,” as it cited Univ. of Miss. Med. Ctr. v. Peacock.

The court further stated that the nurse practitioner expert witness was a certified pediatric sexual assault nurse investigator and had conducted more than 1,000 children’s exams. The court asserted that she had the background and education to qualify as an expert in her field. The Court thus rejected the defendant’s claim that there had been an error in admitting her evidence.

Held

The defendant’s motion to exclude the testimony of the nurse practitioner expert witness offered by the plaintiff was denied.