State v. King, 366 N.C. 68 (Jun. 14, 2012)

The court affirmed State v. King, 214 N.C. App. 114 (Aug. 2, 2011) (holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the State’s expert testimony regarding repressed memory under Rule 403). The trial court had concluded that although the expert’s testimony was “technically” admissible under Howerton and was relevant, it was inadmissible under Rule 403 because recovered memories are of “uncertain authenticity” and susceptible to alternative possible explanations. The trial court found that “the prejudicial effect [of the evidence] increases tremendously because of its likely potential to confuse or mislead the jury.” The supreme court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the repressed memory evidence under Rule 403. The court noted that its holding was case specific:

We promulgate here no general rule regarding the admissibility or reliability of repressed memory evidence under either Rule 403 or Rule 702. As the trial judge himself noted, scientific progress is “rapid and fluid.” Advances in the area of repressed memory are possible, if not likely, and even . . . [the] defendant’s expert, acknowledged that the theory of repressed memory could become established and that he would consider changing his position if confronted with a study conducted using reliable methodology that yielded evidence supporting the theory. Trial courts are fully capable of handling cases involving claims of repressed memory should new or different scientific evidence be presented.