PROTECTION FROM ABUSE Sufficiency of EvidencePosted by BS - 15/07/11 at 02:07 pm
Handrahan v. Malenko, 2011 ME 15, 12 A.3d 79, Jabar, J.
The Law Court affirmed the District Court’s judgment in this protection from abuse case that the petitioner had failed to prove the elements of her case by a preponderance of the evidence. The case involved allegations of sexual abuse by a child of 32 months who only disclosed the sexual abuse during a forensic interview. The DHS put the case in the category of “moderate evidence of sexual abuse.” Two experts testified about their examination methods and opined that there was “moderate evidence” of sexual abuse. The District Court admitted a medical and forensic examination report as business records.
The Law Court upheld the judgment, finding that it was not clearly erroneous, even though the admission of the reports as business records may not have been proper. Because the reports were introduced by the petitioner, however, admitting them was harmless error.
There was also a serious question about the admissibility of the experts’ opinions that there was “moderate evidence” of abuse. Generally, absent a demonstration of scientific reliability, an expert cannot testify that a child is a victim of sexual abuse. Although there were serious questions as to the admissibility of this evidence, it was admitted and the Court assumed that the District Court considered it and did not err in evaluating it. The standard of review on appeal of sufficiency of evidence is that the evidence compelled a contrary finding. The appellant did not meet that high standard.