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Expert Allowed to Testify for Fair Trial

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Jul 17, 2017 |


Marjorie Stubblefield made headlines in 2015 when she was indicted on two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault of a mentally incapacitated young man, D.J. Ms. Stubblefield did not deny having sexual relations with D.J., but argued that D.J. gave consent with the assistance of facilitated communication. The jury found Ms. Stubblefield guilty, and she was sentenced to two concurrent twelve-year prison terms. Ms. Stubblefield appealed her conviction, and, in State v. Stubblefield, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded for a new trial, with a new judge.

On appeal, the defense raised eight issues, but the main issue was that the trial court erred in precluding defense communication expert, Dr. Crossley, from testifying about her assessment of D.J. The trial court ruled that facilitated communication was insufficiently reliable to allow into evidence and found that Dr. Crossley’s assessment of D.J. was based on facilitated communication. The trial court did not allow the video of Dr. Crossley’s assessment to be played for the jury, despite Dr. Crossley stating that portions of the assessment were not based on facilitated communication. The Appellate Division agreed with the defense and held that, by not allowing Dr. Crossley to present her assessment of D.J., defendant was precluded from fully presenting her defense. The Appellate Division also found that because of this, the jury was not shown any evidence that any lay or expert person believed D.J. was capable of consenting. Ultimately, the Appellate Division found that the defendant did not receive a fair trial and reversed the convictions.