State v. Myers, No. C8-82-1031

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtCOYNE
Citation359 N.W.2d 604
Decision Date21 December 1984
Docket NumberNo. C8-82-1031
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. James Alan MYERS, Appellant.

Page 604

359 N.W.2d 604
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
James Alan MYERS, Appellant.
No. C8-82-1031.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
Dec. 21, 1984.

Page 606

Syllabus by the Court

1. Evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant's conviction for criminal sexual conduct in the second degree.

2. In a prosecution for criminal sexual conduct, the testimony of a minor victim need not be corroborated unless the evidence otherwise adduced is insufficient to sustain conviction.

3. The trial court's refusal to let defendant attack the victim's credibility by testifying about past instances in which complainant may have lied was not a denial of defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to confront his accuser.

4. It is within the trial court's discretion to admit qualified expert testimony describing the psychological and emotional characteristics typically observed in sexually abused children and those observed in the complainant and giving other background data providing a relevant insight into the conduct and demeanor of the child complainant which the jury could not otherwise bring to its evaluation of her credibility.

5. Defendant opened the door to opinion testimony regarding the truthfulness of complainant's allegations by eliciting the opinion of complainant's mother about the truthfulness of her daughter's allegations.

C. Paul Jones, Public Defender Mark F. Anderson, Asst. Public Defender, Minneapolis, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Atty., Duluth, Donovan W. Frank, Gary J. Pagliaccetti, Asst. St. Louis County Attys., Virginia, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

COYNE, Justice.

On April 15, 1982, a jury found James Alan Myers guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.343(a) (1982) (sexual contact with a complainant under 13 years of age by an actor who is more than 36 months older than the complainant). Pursuant to the judgment of conviction, Myers was sentenced to a 35-month term of imprisonment. On appeal defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support conviction, that the refusal to permit defendant to testify to occasions on which the complainant may have lied was a deprivation of his constitutional right to confront his accuser, and that the trial court erred in admitting expert psychological testimony describing the behavior and symptoms typically exhibited by sexually abused children and expressing the opinion that the complainant's allegations were not fabricated. We affirm.

Myers was convicted of having criminal sexual contact between August 1980 and July 1981 with the young daughter of the woman with whom he was living. The particular incident which led to these proceedings occurred one morning in either November or December of 1980, when complainant was seven years old. On that morning, while Myers was preparing

Page 607

breakfast in the kitchen of their two-story home, he told complainant to come downstairs from her bedroom and help him. Complainant initially refused but complied when Myers threatened to spank her. Complainant's mother testified that she was in bed when Myers called her daughter and that, because it was quiet downstairs, she got out of bed to see what was happening. She stated that when she arrived downstairs, Myers was sitting on the living room sofa and her daughter was standing directly across the room in the doorway between the living room and kitchen. The mother took complainant upstairs to her bedroom and asked her what had happened. Complainant first responded that she did not know, but ultimately she said that Myers did things to her like he did to her mother. The mother then confronted Myers who said he did not know what the complainant meant.

Some time after this incident the mother told her sister of the complainant's allegations. It was not, however, until several months later, on September 15, 1981, when the complainant's maternal uncle contacted the St. Louis County Department of Social Services, that the authorities were notified of the possibility of abuse. On the following day, Lynn Halenbeck, a St. Louis County Social Worker, talked to the complainant at her school. Halenbeck testified that during the course of their conversation, complainant informed her that Myers would sometimes come into her bedroom at night and touch her on her "chest" and between her legs. Upon further questioning by Halenbeck, complainant detailed the manner in which Myers molested her. Halenbeck also stated that she deduced from complainant's statements that Myers had commenced abusing her when she was six and that the child could not conceptualize the difference between sexual penetration and contact. On the basis of this information, Halenbeck contacted the county attorney's office, and thereafter obtained a court order removing complainant from her home. On October 6, 1981, formal charges were filed against Myers. 1

The state also presented the testimonies of Dr. John Mathers, an obstetrician and gynecologist who examined complainant on March 1, 1982, and of Dr. Clare Bell, a clinical psychologist at the Range Mental Health Center, who began treating complainant on December 11, 1981. Dr. Mathers testified that his physical examination of complainant revealed that her hymen was intact and that she was otherwise normal for a girl of her age. Dr. Mathers further explained that if there had been penetration there would have been scarring, but the absence of scarring was not inconsistent with pushing on the vagina or penetration through the outer lips.

Dr. Bell testified that commencing on December 11, 1981, she saw complainant on seven occasions in sessions each lasting at least one hour. Dr. Bell stated that in each of these sessions, complainant related the manner in which defendant abused her and that, while she continually added information, the child's allegations remained consistent.

The complainant, who was eight years old at the time of the trial, also testified and substantially repeated her earlier statements to Halenbeck and Bell. When questioned on cross-examination about the theft of some combs and money from a neighbor's house, complainant responded that she did not remember the incident. Finally, complainant testified on cross-examination that she was not happy when Myers commenced living with them.

Defendant testified at trial, denying the allegations of sexual abuse. Myers also sought to testify concerning an occasion when complainant had lied about stealing

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some combs, but the testimony was excluded on the grounds that it constituted extrinsic impeachment evidence.

Defendant raises several issues which do not require much discussion. His initial contention, that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict, is meritless. Our review of the record, particularly with regard to the young complainant's consistency in describing defendant's acts and her detailed description of the manner in which he perpetrated the abuse, convinces us that there was ample evidence to support the jury's verdict.

For the same reasons, we find no merit in the defendant's contention that corroboration was required for conviction. Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.347, subd. 1 (1982), provides that in a prosecution for criminal sexual conduct the complainant's testimony need not be corroborated. Corroboration of an allegation of sexual abuse of a child is required only if the evidence otherwise adduced is insufficient to sustain conviction. State v. Hesse, 281 N.W.2d 491, 492 (Minn.1979). Hence, our determination that the evidence was legally sufficient to support the verdict disposes of any...

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241 practice notes
  • State v. Obeta, No. A10–1349.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • 24 Marzo 2011
    ...contact by the adolescent with the assailant is admissible in the proper exercise of discretion by the trial court....”); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604, 610 (Minn.1984) (holding that expert testimony into “puzzling aspects of the child's conduct and demeanor which the jury could not otherw......
  • McCafferty v. Solem, Nos. 16121
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 29 Agosto 1988
    ...because these cases were recognized as being "different." State v. Kim, 64 Haw. 598, 602, 645 P.2d 1330, 1334 (1982); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 In McCafferty I, we recognized that cases involving very young sexual abuse victims are special cases for confrontation clause purposes and th......
  • Duckett v. State, No. 330-88
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • 10 Octubre 1990
    ...cases may exist in the case on trial. State v. Kim, supra. See also U.S. v. St. Pierre, 812 F.2d 417 (8th Cir.1987); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 (Minn.1984). Other courts would allow this type of expert testimony for witness rehabilitative purposes but not to directly qualify the veracit......
  • State v. R.W.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • 23 Septiembre 1986
    ...its results proffered, on an adequate showing, by the proponent of the child's testimony, as well as by the defendant. In State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 (Minn.1984), the Minnesota Supreme Court reviewed an incest prosecution in which a doctor had testified concerning the characteristics of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
241 cases
  • State v. Obeta, No. A10–1349.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • 24 Marzo 2011
    ...contact by the adolescent with the assailant is admissible in the proper exercise of discretion by the trial court....”); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604, 610 (Minn.1984) (holding that expert testimony into “puzzling aspects of the child's conduct and demeanor which the jury could not otherw......
  • McCafferty v. Solem, Nos. 16121
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • 29 Agosto 1988
    ...because these cases were recognized as being "different." State v. Kim, 64 Haw. 598, 602, 645 P.2d 1330, 1334 (1982); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 In McCafferty I, we recognized that cases involving very young sexual abuse victims are special cases for confrontation clause purposes and th......
  • Duckett v. State, No. 330-88
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • 10 Octubre 1990
    ...cases may exist in the case on trial. State v. Kim, supra. See also U.S. v. St. Pierre, 812 F.2d 417 (8th Cir.1987); State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 (Minn.1984). Other courts would allow this type of expert testimony for witness rehabilitative purposes but not to directly qualify the veracit......
  • State v. R.W.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • 23 Septiembre 1986
    ...its results proffered, on an adequate showing, by the proponent of the child's testimony, as well as by the defendant. In State v. Myers, 359 N.W.2d 604 (Minn.1984), the Minnesota Supreme Court reviewed an incest prosecution in which a doctor had testified concerning the characteristics of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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