State v. Dudley

Decision Date05 December 2014
Docket NumberNo. 12–0729.,12–0729.
Citation856 N.W.2d 668
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Patrick Michael DUDLEY, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Kent Simmons, Davenport, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sheryl A. Soich, Assistant Attorney General, Edward W. Bull, County Attorney, and Nicole L. Olson, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.


WIGGINS, Justice.

This case involves two charges of sexual abuse in the second degree in violation of Iowa Code section 709.3(2) (2009). A jury convicted the defendant of these charges. On appeal, defendant contends he is entitled to have the charges dismissed because the State failed to comply with a plea bargain agreement. He also contends, if we do not dismiss the charges, he is entitled to a new trial because certain expert witnesses vouched for the credibility of the victim, the district court admitted hearsay statements from the victim into the record, and the district court did not allow him to use a prior conviction of a witness to impeach that witness. We transferred the case to our court of appeals. The court of appeals held the State did not violate the plea bargain agreement, but the defendant is entitled to a new trial on the ground an expert witness vouched for the credibility of the victim.

The State sought further review, which we granted. On further review, we agree with the court of appeals that the State did not violate the plea bargain agreement, but that the defendant is entitled to a new trial on the ground an expert witness vouched for the credibility of the victim. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals and remand the case for a new trial. On retrial, the district court should not admit the victim's hearsay statements into the record and should revisit the use of the prior conviction consistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Patrick Dudley and his wife Kay lived in Northfield, Minnesota. In June 2010, Dudley and his wife planned a trip to Knoxville, Iowa, to visit a friend. The Dudleys took their ten-year-old granddaughter B.O. along for the trip. When the Dudleys arrived in Knoxville, all three individuals slept in one bedroom. The Dudleys slept on a mattress on the floor and B.O. slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. B.O. alleged on the second night of the trip, after she and her grandparents went to bed, Dudley touched her vagina with his hand. B.O. alleged he did the same thing on the third night of the trip.

Dudley, his wife, and B.O. returned to Minnesota the next day. On the evening she returned home, B.O. told her mother that her grandfather had touched her vagina with his hand. B.O.'s parents called the police in Minnesota to report the abuse. The Minnesota authorities contacted the police in Knoxville to report the incident.

Later that month the child traveled to the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines. Tammera Bibbins, a forensic interviewer, conducted an interview of B.O. The purpose of the interview was to determine if the authorities should continue their investigation. The interviewer recommended further investigation.

The State eventually charged Dudley with two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree. In September 2011, Dudley filed seven motions in limine, including motions to exclude expert testimonies of Bibbins and B.O.'s treating therapist, Mary Casey, and exclude the testimony of B.O.'s neighbor, Pat Korinek. On December 27, Dudley also filed a motion to dismiss the charges and enforce a pretrial plea agreement. The district court overruled all the motions at issue in this appeal.

Before trial, the county attorney made a plea offer to Dudley. The county attorney agreed to dismiss the charges if Dudley passed a polygraph test given by a certified test administrator. The county attorney also notified Dudley the offer would expire once the parties took B.O.'s deposition. Dudley initially refused to take a polygraph test and did nothing with the offer for more than sixty days. After months had passed, the county attorney contacted Dudley to inform him he would be making a trip to Minnesota to interview B.O., and once he did, all plea offers were off the table. Dudley decided to take the polygraph test in Minnesota but did so after the county attorney made the trip to speak with B.O.

Dudley passed the Minnesota polygraph test and sent the results to the county attorney. Dudley did not inform the county attorney he had agreed to go forward with the test prior to the county attorney's trip to see the child. The county attorney only found out Dudley took the test after Dudley sent him the results of the exam. The county attorney agreed to look at the results but had concerns with the veracity of the results. Even with these concerns and Dudley's failure to inform the county attorney that he decided to take the test, the county attorney agreed to allow Dudley to take another exam in Iowa. Dudley did not pass the Iowa test.1

Dudley filed a motion arguing the court should enforce the plea agreement because he detrimentally relied upon the plea offer by waiving his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The district court denied Dudley's motion and the case proceeded to trial.

At trial, Casey, a board certified psychologist, testified she provided therapeutic treatment to B.O. Casey testified she diagnosed B.O. with posttraumatic stress disorder

and generalized anxiety disorder. The court permitted Casey to testify regarding typical physical manifestations and symptoms of an individual suffering from posttraumatic stress because of sexual abuse. Her descriptions matched, almost exactly, the manifestations other witnesses had already testified B.O. was exhibiting. Casey then testified to the observations she made of B.O.'s symptoms and physical manifestations while she was treating the child. Casey testified she observed some “telltale” physical manifestations such as the child dressing in layers, cutting her hair, dressing “very boyish,” and reacting to triggers such as seeing her grandfather's car. Casey concluded her testimony on direct examination with the following exchange with the county attorney:

Q: Ma'am, based on your education, training, and experience, do you have an opinion to a reasonable degree of certainty in your field as to whether or not [B.O.]'s physical manifestations were consistent with a child suffering from sexual abuse trauma? A: Yes, they were consistent.
Q: And do you have an opinion based on your line of work again, based on your credentials as to whether or not her symptoms were consistent with a child dealing with sexual abuse trauma? A: Yes, her symptoms were.

At trial, Bibbins testified to the type of interview she conducts with children who have made allegations of sexual abuse. Bibbins testified she conducted her interview with B.O. in the same manner. She also explained to the jury the concepts of coaching a child and suggestibility—using leading questions when interviewing the child. Bibbins testified B.O.'s “statement was consistent throughout the entire interview process.” The county attorney also asked Bibbins to opine whether B.O.'s involvement with therapy was “problematic in the realm of coaching” to which Bibbins answered she “did not see it as problematic.” Bibbins also testified she made recommendations for B.O. to receive therapy and cease all contact with Dudley.

Dudley also tried to exclude testimony regarding what B.O. had told the child's neighbor, Korinek, about the incident in Iowa. The district court stated it would allow the testimony so long as the State established the statements qualified under the excited utterance exception to hearsay. At trial, B.O.'s mother testified that after her daughter told her about the incident the child went to bed. The next morning the mother called Korinek and told her about B.O.'s accusation. She asked Korinek to talk with B.O. about the trip with her grandparents. B.O.'s mother then sent her to the neighbor's home to deliver eggs.

Korinek testified B.O. was not her normal bubbly self when she arrived at the neighbor's home. Korinek further testified she asked the child what was wrong. B.O. began to cry and was very upset. Korinek testified she prompted the child to tell her what was wrong a few times before the child disclosed the incident to her. The State then asked Korinek what B.O. told her had happened that caused the child to be so upset. Over objection, the district court ruled the statements fell under the excited utterance exception and permitted Korinek to respond. Korinek testified B.O. told her Dudley had touched her vagina while they were in Iowa.

Lastly, Dudley filed a notice of his intent to introduce evidence of a prior criminal conviction of one of the State's witnesses, Michael Gannaway. During the course of the case, Dudley's sister-in-law and her boyfriend, Gannaway, were living with the Dudleys. Gannaway testified that while he was living in Dudley's home, Dudley disclosed to him that he [Dudley] was guilty of what he was charged with and that as soon as it blew over, he was going to seek therapy or something like that.” Around the same time this statement was made, the Dudleys asked Gannaway and Kay's sister to move out of the home. Dudley sought to introduce evidence to impeach Gannaway's credibility.

Gannaway was convicted of theft in Minnesota more than twenty years prior to the current trial. When asked about his criminal history during his deposition, Gannaway stated he had never been convicted of a crime. Dudley wanted to admit the crime of dishonesty and the denial during deposition to impeach Gannaway. The district court ruled it would not

sustain the motion in limine on [the] 20-year-old misdemeanor. It's kind of like a speeding charge. I suspect if you got back in that and the record went long enough, he probably had a speeding charge and that's shown as a criminal charge too.

The State...

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