Expert Article Library

Juries Don't Need Psychologists to Distinguish Normal Behavior from Child Molestation

Case Name: United States v. Fitzgerald (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

Date: November 17, 2003

Expert: Psychological Expert. Dr. Anthony J. Pinizzotto, Ph.D., clinical forensic psychologist

Issue: Whether expert testimony on the methodology and behavior of child molesters is admissible to prove intent to molest a child.

Summary of case: Defendant was a high school JROTC instructor who was charged with molesting some of his female students. Defendant moved to exclude the testimony of several girls and Dr. Pinizzotto.

Role of the expert: Dr. Pinizzotto testified on the methodology and behavior of child molesters.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: Defendant moved to exclude Dr. Pinizzotto’s testimony because it did not satisfy the Supreme Court’s Daubert Standard. Defendant also claimed the testimony did not assist the jury to decide the case. The U.S. District Court for the East District of Virginia excluded the testimony because it ruled that Dr. Pinizzotto’s expert credentials did not satisfy Daubert because his publications had not been peer-reviewed, among other things. The 4th Circuit’s review of the lower court was under the “abuse of discretion standard” and the court ruled that the lower court did not abuse its discretion. Thus, the expert testimony was excluded under Daubert. The court also ruled that the jury did not need an expert to distinguish the kind of behavior that was appropriate from the kind of behavior that constituted molestation.

Summary prepared by C. Wood, Student, University of California, Hastings College of the Law