Expert Article Library

Clinical Psychologist Denied Under Daubert Test in Sexual Assault Case

Case Name: United States v. Hebah (http://www.ck10.uscourts.gov/opinions/04/04-8092.pdf)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Date: January 20, 2006

Expert: Clinical Psychologist. Dr. William Flynn, psychologist

Issues: Whether the testimony of defendant’s expert witness was properly excluded

Summary of case: The defendant, Kevin Hebah, was convicted of sexual abuse for raping a seventeen-year-old girl who was intoxicated and passed out at a party. The defendant initially confessed to the crime, then recanted his confession. Several people witnessed the rape and testified against him at trial.

Role of the expert: The defendant wished to present the testimony of Dr. Flynn, who would testify that the defendant had a compliant nature and was prone to give false confessions because of his desire to acquiesce to others.

Expert analysis: The prosecution objected to Dr. Flynn’s credentials as an expert. The judge held a pre-trial hearing and established that there were several problems with his credentials and methodology. Dr. Flynn’s CV failed to establish his training in the area of false confessions, he had not conducted his tests in person, he relied on the defendant’s family to corroborate his findings, he could not speak authoritatively about his diagnosis or the margin of error of the tests, and he had limited experience conducting the tests.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that the trial judge was within his discretion to exclude the witness’ testimony under the Daubert test. Further, the Court said that even if the testimony had been admitted, it would not have been likely to outweigh the evidence of several eyewitnesses.

Summary prepared by K. Tanner, Student, University of California, H astings College of Law