Flanagan v. State, No. 78923

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtGRIMES; BARKETT
Citation625 So.2d 827
Parties18 Fla. L. Weekly S475 Dennis FLANAGAN, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent.
Decision Date09 September 1993
Docket NumberNo. 78923

Page 827

625 So.2d 827
18 Fla. L. Weekly S475
Dennis FLANAGAN, Petitioner,
v.
STATE of Florida, Respondent.
No. 78923.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Sept. 9, 1993.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 25, 1993.

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender and Kathleen Stover, Asst. Public Defender, Tallahassee, for petitioner.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen. and Gypsy Bailey, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for respondent.

GRIMES, Justice.

Dennis Flanagan was convicted of sexually battering his mentally retarded nine year-old daughter, T.F. The First District Court of Appeal, sitting en banc, affirmed the conviction and certified the following questions as being of great public importance:

Page 828

(1) IS EXPERT SCIENTIFIC TESTIMONY WHICH DOES NOT MEET THE TEST OF FRYE V. UNITED STATES, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.CIR.1923) FOR ADMISSIBILITY OF NOVEL SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OTHERWISE ADMISSIBLE AS BACKGROUND INFORMATION IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL?

(2) IS PEDOPHILE/CHILD SEX OFFENDER PROFILE EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL?

Flanagan v. State, 586 So.2d 1085, 1124-25 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). We have jurisdiction under article V, section 3(b)(4) of the Florida Constitution.

One of the witnesses who testified against Flanagan at trial was Dr. Goslin, a psychologist for the HRS Child Protection Team, who evaluated T.F. twice. After discussing her initial evaluation of T.F., Dr. Goslin described typical problems in interviewing a young child, noting for example that it is common for children who were sexually abused to have trouble pinpointing the time of the abuse and keeping the incidents separate. Goslin then talked about common characteristics of the home environment where child sexual abuse occurs and about the characteristics of abusers. It was this latter testimony which was objected to by Flanagan and which troubled a majority of the judges on the district court of appeal. 1

We begin our analysis of the admissibility of this testimony with the basic principle that novel scientific evidence is not admissible in Florida unless it meets the test established in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923). See Stokes v. State, 548 So.2d 188, 195 (Fla.1989). Under Frye, in order to introduce expert testimony deduced from a scientific principle or discovery, the principle or discovery "must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs." 293 F. at 1014.

Of course, not all expert testimony must meet this test in order to be admissible. As discussed by Judge Ervin below, 586 So.2d at 1109-11, pure opinion testimony, such as an expert's opinion that a defendant is incompetent, does not have to meet Frye, because this type of testimony is based on the expert's personal experience and training. While cloaked with the credibility of the expert, this testimony is analyzed by the jury as it analyzes any other personal opinion or factual testimony by a witness. Profile testimony, on the other hand, by its nature necessarily relies on some scientific principle or test, which implies an infallibility not found in pure opinion testimony. The jury will naturally assume that the scientific principles underlying the expert's conclusion are valid. Accordingly, this type of testimony must meet the Frye test, designed to ensure that the jury will not be misled by experimental scientific methods which may ultimately prove to be unsound. See Stokes, 548 So.2d at 193-94 ("[A] courtroom is not a laboratory, and as such it is not the place to conduct scientific experiments. If the scientific community considers a procedure or process unreliable for its own purposes, then the procedure must be considered less reliable for courtroom use.").

Here, it is virtually uncontested that sex offender profile evidence cannot meet this test. The State does not attempt to prove this evidence meets Frye by citing cases or authority...

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94 practice notes
  • E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Inc. v. Robinson, No. 94-0843
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • 8 Julio 1996
    ...8 Cal.4th 587, 34 Cal.Rptr.2d 663, 673, 882 P.2d 321, 331 (1994); Fishback v. People, 851 P.2d 884, 889 (Colo.1993); Flanagan v. State, 625 So.2d 827, 828-29 (Fla.1993); State v. Alt, 504 N.W.2d 38, 45-46 (Minn.Ct.App.1993); State v. Carter, 246 Neb. 953, 524 N.W.2d 763, 779 (1994); People ......
  • State v. McDonnell, SCWC-14-0000355
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • 28 Agosto 2017
    ...characteristics of the home environment where child sexual abuse occurs and about the characteristics of abusers." Flanagan v. State, 625 So. 2d 827, 828 (Fla. 1993). The court concluded that the evidence was not permitted as "background information," noting that "the courtroom is not a cla......
  • Ryan v. State, No. 98-279.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 8 Octubre 1999
    ...Sorensen v. State, 895 P.2d 454, 457 (Wyo.1995) (quoting Frenzel v. State, 849 P.2d 741, 747 (Wyo.1993)). See also Flanagan v. State, 625 So.2d 827, 828 (Fla.App.1993) (sex offender profile does not meet test established in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923)); and State v. St......
  • In re Amendments to the Fla. Evidence Code, No. SC19-107
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 23 Mayo 2019
    ...analyzes any other personal opinion or factual testimony by a witness." Id. at 548 (alteration in original) (quoting Flanagan v. State , 625 So.2d 827, 828 (Fla. 1993) ).The [Florida] Supreme Court addressed the fundamental, constitutional reason for its insistence on maintaining the utilit......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
94 cases
  • E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Inc. v. Robinson, No. 94-0843
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • 8 Julio 1996
    ...8 Cal.4th 587, 34 Cal.Rptr.2d 663, 673, 882 P.2d 321, 331 (1994); Fishback v. People, 851 P.2d 884, 889 (Colo.1993); Flanagan v. State, 625 So.2d 827, 828-29 (Fla.1993); State v. Alt, 504 N.W.2d 38, 45-46 (Minn.Ct.App.1993); State v. Carter, 246 Neb. 953, 524 N.W.2d 763, 779 (1994); People ......
  • State v. McDonnell, SCWC-14-0000355
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • 28 Agosto 2017
    ...characteristics of the home environment where child sexual abuse occurs and about the characteristics of abusers." Flanagan v. State, 625 So. 2d 827, 828 (Fla. 1993). The court concluded that the evidence was not permitted as "background information," noting that "the courtroom is not a cla......
  • Ryan v. State, No. 98-279.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 8 Octubre 1999
    ...Sorensen v. State, 895 P.2d 454, 457 (Wyo.1995) (quoting Frenzel v. State, 849 P.2d 741, 747 (Wyo.1993)). See also Flanagan v. State, 625 So.2d 827, 828 (Fla.App.1993) (sex offender profile does not meet test established in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923)); and State v. St......
  • In re Amendments to the Fla. Evidence Code, No. SC19-107
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 23 Mayo 2019
    ...analyzes any other personal opinion or factual testimony by a witness." Id. at 548 (alteration in original) (quoting Flanagan v. State , 625 So.2d 827, 828 (Fla. 1993) ).The [Florida] Supreme Court addressed the fundamental, constitutional reason for its insistence on maintaining the utilit......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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