State v. Hicks, 239 N.C. App. 396 (Feb. 17, 2015)

(1) In this child sexual abuse case, testimony from a psychologist, Ms. Bellis, who treated the victim did not constitute expert testimony that impermissibly vouched for the victim’s credibility. Bellis testified, in part, that the victim “came in because she had been molested by her older cousin." The court noted that in the cases offered by defendant, “the experts clearly and unambiguously either testified as to their opinion regarding the victim's credibility or identified the defendant as the perpetrator of the sexual abuse.” It continued:

Here, in contrast, Ms. Bellis was never specifically asked to give her opinion as to the truth of [the victim’s] allegations of molestation or whether she believed that [the victim] was credible. When reading Ms. Bellis' testimony as a whole, it is evident that when Ms. Bellis stated that "[t]hey specifically came in because [the victim] had been molested by her older cousin[,]" Ms. Bellis was simply stating the reason why [the victim] initially sought treatment from Ms. Bellis. Indeed, Ms. Bellis' affirmative response to the State's follow-up question whether there was "an allegation of molestation" clarifies that Ms. Bellis' statement referred to [the victim]'s allegations, and not Ms. Bellis' personal opinion as to their veracity. Because Ms. Bellis' testimony, when viewed in context, does not express an opinion as to [the victim]'s credibility or defendant's guilt, we hold that the trial court did not err in admitting it.

(2) The court rejected defendant’s argument that the trial court committed plain error by admitting Bellis' testimony that she diagnosed the victim with PTSD. The court concluded that the State's introduction of evidence of PTSD on re-direct was not admitted as substantive evidence that the sexual assault happened, but rather to rebut an inference raised by defense counsel during cross-examination. The court further noted that although defendant could have requested a limiting instruction, he did not do so.