People v. Meeboer, s. 88115

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Citation439 Mich. 310,484 N.W.2d 621
Docket NumberNos. 9-11,88565 and 88931,Nos. 88115,s. 88115,s. 9-11
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Douglas Edward MEEBOER, Defendant-Appellant. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Theodore CRAFT, Defendant-Appellee. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Bobby Stearling CONN, Defendant-Appellee (AFTER REMAND). Calendar,
Decision Date01 October 1991

[439 Mich. 314] Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Gay Secor Hardy, Sol. Gen., Robert E. Weiss, Genesee County Pros. Atty., Donald A. Kuebler, Chief, Appellate Div., Flint, Dennis M. Wiley, Pros. Atty., Mark Sanford, Asst. Pros. Atty., St. Joseph, Richard Thompson, Pros. Atty., Oakland County, and Michael J. Modelski, Chief, Appellate Div. by Robert C. Williams, Asst. Pros. Atty., Pontiac, for the People.

Daniel D. Bremer, Flint, for defendant-appellant, Meeboer.

Ilsa Draznin, Detroit, for defendant-appellee, Craft.

Carl Ziemba, Detroit, for defendant-appellee, Conn.

Before the entire bench.


RILEY, Justice.

We consolidated these three cases to determine whether error requiring reversal occurred by the admission of hearsay statements made to medical personnel pursuant to the hearsay exception of MRE 803(4). 1

See 436 Mich. 880 [439 Mich. 315] (1990). These cases present an opportunity for this Court to clarify the interpretation and application of MRE 803(4) to hearsay statements made to physicians by child victims of sexual abuse

Because we believe that neither the rationale supporting the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule, MRE 803(4), nor our decision in LaLone 2 requires the exclusion of all statements made to treating medical health care providers by the victims of child sexual abuse which identify their assailants, we affirm the convictions in People v. Conn and People v. Meeboer. We affirm the Court of Appeals reversal of defendant's conviction in People v. Craft because we believe the evidence does not sufficiently support admission of the hearsay statements under MRE 803(4).

Factual Background
People v. Conn

This case involves an allegation of criminal sexual conduct against defendant, Bobby S. Conn, for allegedly committing acts of sexual intercourse with the complainant who was seven years old at the time. She and her mother were residing in an apartment with defendant at the time of the alleged sexual assault on or about June 1, 1984.

Complainant was taken by her mother to see Dr. Samuel Scheinfield on February 16, 1984, after she complained of pain in her vaginal area. 3 Dr. Scheinfield conducted an examination and was informed by complainant's mother that the child [439 Mich. 316] had injured herself. 4 When questioned by the doctor, complainant first indicated she fell upon her bicycle; she then indicated a boy, who was later determined to be approximately eighteen to twenty years old, had been "messing" with her; finally she indicated that defendant had sexually abused her.

Following the doctor's notification to the proper authorities, the police interviewed the defendant. He was subsequently charged with criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. M.C.L. Sec. 750.520b(1)(a); M.S.A. Sec. 28.788(2)(1)(a).

At trial, the complainant testified that while residing with defendant and her mother, defendant would come into her bedroom dressed in his long johns and attempt to commit acts of sexual intercourse through the opening in the bottom half of his long johns. Complainant admitted she had first informed Dr. Scheinfield that a different individual had "messed" with her, but after her mother told her to be truthful with the doctor, she identified defendant, to whom she referred as her "dad," had "messed" with her.

Defendant did not testify or present any witnesses on his behalf. The jury rendered a guilty verdict against defendant.

Defendant appealed his conviction in the Court of Appeals, arguing that the medical testimony regarding statements made by the complainant to Dr. Scheinfield had been improperly admitted because it constituted inadmissible hearsay and was not within the medical treatment exception, MRE 803(4). The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, holding that MRE 803(4) was properly applied[439 Mich. 317] in this instance because the statements made by the complainant to the doctor were reasonably necessary to make complete medical treatment available to this particular victim, namely a child sexual abuse victim. 5 In lieu of granting leave to appeal, this Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of our decision in People v.

LaLone, 432 Mich. 103, 437 N.W.2d 611 (1989). 6

Upon remand, the Court of Appeals determined that the statements were admitted in violation of the rationale expressed in LaLone, and the defendant's conviction was reversed. 7

We granted leave to appeal, 8 limited to the issue whether error requiring reversal occurred in the admission, under MRE 803(4), of statements made by the victim to medical personnel. This case was argued and submitted with People v. Meeboer and People v. Craft.

8. Indeed, it is this factor that has led us to conclude that "firmly rooted" exceptions carry sufficient indicia of reliability to satisfy the reliability requirement posed by the Confrontation Clause.... There can be no doubt that the two exceptions we consider in this case are "firmly rooted." ... The exception for statements made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment is similarly recognized in the Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 803(4), and is equally widely accepted among the States.


People v. Meeboer

The Meeboer family babysat the six-year-old complainant at their residence from January 9 through January 11, 1986. She alleged that during this time period she was sexually penetrated by the twenty-year-old defendant while his mother, father, and sister were absent from the house.

Eleven days after the date of the alleged occurrence, complainant's aunt and uncle were babysitting the complainant at their home and, while bathing complainant, observed swelling and redness around the vaginal area. Following further [439 Mich. 318] examination and questioning by her aunt, after initially stating that nobody had done anything to her, complainant disclosed to her aunt and uncle that defendant had "messed" with her.

As soon as complainant's mother was informed of the sexual assault, including the identity of the perpetrator, she notified the police. Complainant was then taken to the hospital, where she was referred to Dr. Karen Bentley, a specialist in the area of child sexual abuse.

Dr. Bentley performed an examination of the complainant on January 22, 1986, which included a physical examination and a recording of the complainant's medical history. The doctor concluded that sexual penetration had occurred. Charges of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree were brought by the Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney's Office against defendant. M.C.L. Sec. 750.520b(1)(a); M.S.A. Sec. 28.788(2)(1)(a).

The trial court admitted, over objection, the testimony of Dr. Bentley relaying complainant's identification of the defendant as her abuser. The trial court determined that this hearsay evidence was reasonably necessary for purposes of medical treatment or diagnosis and was therefore within the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule, MRE 803(4). The doctor's brief testimony regarding complainant's statements describing the incident corroborated the testimony rendered by the complainant.

Defendant presented an alibi defense after the prosecution completed its case in chief. He attempted to establish that he was never alone with the complainant for the entire time of January 9 through 11, 1986. The jury found defendant guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on April 16, 1986.

Defendant appealed his conviction in the Court [439 Mich. 319] of Appeals alleging, among other issues, error in the admission of the statements by the complainant to Dr. Bentley regarding the identification of defendant. The Court of Appeals, relying upon a line of Michigan 9 and federal 10 case law, affirmed the finding of the trial court that this type of statement is admissible as substantive evidence pursuant to MRE 803(4) because it is necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of a child sexual assault victim. 11 We remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in

light of our decision in People v. LaLone, supra. 12 Upon remand, the Court of Appeals affirmed its earlier holding, relying on four factors to distinguish the facts of this case from those in LaLone, finding that the victim's statements regarding identification were admissible. 13

We granted defendant's application for leave to appeal. 14

People v. Craft

This case involves allegations of criminal sexual conduct against defendant, Theodore R. Craft, for allegedly committing acts of sexual intercourse with the complainant, his four-year-old stepdaughter. It is alleged that on March 25, 1984, the complainant was sexually assaulted in the bedroom of her mother and defendant-stepfather.

Complainant's school teachers noticed that complainant urinated frequently and that she had a [439 Mich. 320] discharge in her underwear. They contacted protective services regarding suspected child abuse. On March 29, 1984, complainant was taken to a clinic by her mother. Dr. David Cooke performed a physical examination resulting in a determination, based upon the vaginal examination and discussion with the complainant, that sexual abuse had occurred. The doctor reported his finding of sexual assault to proper authorities, and the child was removed from defendant's residence and placed in a foster home. During the trial, defense counsel elicited information from the doctor that, in addition to stating that a boy had touched her in...

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