Thursday, October 02, 2003

PA Endorses Pretrial Competency Hearings for Child Molestation Cases

As we learn from a Philadelphia Inquirer report, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last week that pretrial competency hearings are appropriate, where charges of child molestation rest on the testimony of young children, and where the defendant can make a preliminary showing that the child's memory may have been tainted by improper interview techniques. Expert testimony may be entertained at such hearings, the court said, in the sound discretion of the trial judge.

Justice Cappy's majority opinion in Commonwealth v. Delbridge is available here; Justice Nigro's dissent, here; Justice Eakins concurrence and dissent, here.
Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.