State v. Dew, 225 N.C. App. 750 (Mar. 5, 2013)

(1) In a child sex case, the trial court did not err by qualifying as an expert a family therapist who provided counseling to both victims. The court first concluded that the witness possessed the necessary qualifications. Among other things, she had a master’s degree in Christian counseling and completed additional professional training relating to the trauma experienced by children who have been sexually abused; she engaged in private practice as a therapist and was a licensed family therapist and professional counselor; and over half of her clients had been subjected to some sort of trauma, with a significant number having suffered sexual abuse. Second, the court rejected the defendant’s challenge to the expert’s testimony on reliability grounds, concluding that he failed to demonstrate that her methods were unreliable. The court noted that our courts have consistently allowed the admission of similar expert testimony, relying upon personal observations and professional experience rather than upon quantitative analysis. (2) The expert did not impermissibly vouch for the credibility of the victims when she testified that “research says is 60% of cases like this do not even get reported.” According to the defendant, the expert improperly vouched for the credibility of the children by describing child sexual abuse cases with which she was familiar as “cases like this.” Distinguishing prior cases, the court disagreed. It noted that the expert never directly stated that the victims were believable; instead she described the actions and reactions of sexual abuse victims in general. (3) A detective did not impermissibly vouch for the victim’s credibility when she testified that the child actually remembered specific events. The challenged testimony was nothing more than a permissible discussion of the manner in which the child communicated with the detective.