MCINTIRE V. COMMONWEALTH
CRIMINAL: Expert Testimony
PUBLISHED DATE: APRIL 20, 2006; AS MODIFIED: 6/15/2006
ORDER GRANTED MOTION TO PUBLISH WITH PAGES 1 -17 SUBSTITUTED IN LIEU OF PAGES ORIGINALLY RENDERED
REVERSING AND REMANDING; JOHNSTONE
The charges underlying this matter concern the abuse and death of Appellant’s four-month-old son, Jordan, and the admissibility of expert testimony surrounding the criminal abuse of that child. SC held the trial court erred in admitting expert testimony and reversed the conviction.
Appellant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by permitting improper and highly prejudicial expert testimony. Dr. Betty Spevak testified for the Commonwealth in her capacity as a forensic pediatrician. Appellant objects to two portions of Dr. Spevak’s testimony: (1) Dr. Spevak’s statement that the injuries sustained by Jordan would have been noisy and loud ; and (2) Dr. Spevak’s conclusion that a non-abusing parent would be aware of abuse occurring in the home . Appellant does not argue that Dr. Spevak was generally unqualified to testify as an expert. Rather, she contends that these statements exceeded the scope of her expertise and should have been excluded.
KRE 702 governs the admissibility of expert opinion testimony. To introduce expert opinion testimony, a four-part test must be satisfied . Stringer v. Commonwealth , 956 S.W .2d 883, 891 (Ky. 1997). First, the witness must be qualified to render an opinion on the subject matter. Second, the subject matter must satisfy the requirements of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , 509 U .S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L . Ed . 2d 469 (1993). Third, the subject matter must satisfy the test of relevancy set forth in KRE 401, subject to the prejudicial versus probative balancing test required by KRE 403 . Finally, the opinion testimony must assist the trier of fact. SCOKY reiterated that decisions concerning the admissibility and qualifications of an expert witness rest within the sound discretion of the trial court. Ford v. Commonwealth, 665 S.W.2d 304,309 (Ky. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U .S . 984,105 S . Ct. 392, 83 L. Ed. 2d
325 (1984) . A trial judge abuses his or her discretion when a decision is "arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair or unsupported by sound legal principles ." Farmland Mut. Ins. Co. v. Johnson, 36 S.W .3d 368, 378 (Ky. 2000). Upon thorough review of the record, SCOKY concluded the trial court erred in admitting certain portions of Dr. Spevak’s testimony, as its prejudicial effect was far outweighed by its probative value. Michael Stevens, ed.