The Court affirmed the defendant’s child molestation convictions and the denial of his motion for new trial.
In Barraza v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the defense was not prejudiced by the State’s failure to provide in discovery a written report from their forensic interview expert. The Court found that even if the discovery statute required the State to provide a written report, the defense had ample notice of the expert’s proposed testimony.
The defendant was charged with several counts of child molestation. His first trial ended in a hung jury but, following a retrial, he was convicted on three of these counts. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred in not excluding the testimony of the State’s forensic interview expert since the prosecution failed to provide in discovery a written report of her findings and expert opinions.
At trial, the interviewer who conducted the forensic interview with the alleged victim was tendered by the State as “an expert in the process of disclosure, dynamics of child sexual abuse, and forensic interviewing.” At a pretrial hearing, the defense objected to her testimony and argued that Georgia’s reciprocal discovery statute required the State to provide the defense with a written report of her findings and opinions.
Defense counsel argued that without a written report, the defense was not aware of the substance of the expert’s proposed testimony and thus would not be able to counter her opinions with its own expert. The trial court declined to exclude the expert and ruled that the defense would have an opportunity to cross-examine her at trial and that the recording of the interview itself was, in fact, her report.
Georgia’s reciprocal discovery statute requires the prosecution to provide the defense with a written report from their expert in any case which involves the conducting of physical or mental examinations, scientific tests, or experiments. The Court of Appeals noted that if such a written report is required and the State fails to provide it in discovery, exclusion of the expert’s testimony is only required if it can be shown that (1) the State acted in bad faith, and (2) the failure to produce a report prejudiced the defense.
No appellate court in Georgia has ever addressed the issue of whether a forensic interview qualifies as either a physical or mental examination, a scientific test, or an experiment so as to invoke this provision of the reciprocal discovery statute. Unfortunately, the Court did not directly address this issue and held that regardless of whether the discovery provision encompasses forensic interviews, the defense could not show how it was prejudiced by the failure to produce a written report.
The Court pointed out that the defense not only had a recording of the interview, but it had a transcript of the expert’s testimony from the first trial that ended in a hung jury. Based on this, the Court held that the defense was adequately prepared to counter the expert’s opinions and was certainly on notice as to the substance of her testimony.
As a result, the Court affirmed the defendant’s child molestation convictions and the denial of his motion for new trial.
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