State v. Mendoza, ___ N.C. App. ___, 794 S.E.2d 828 (Dec. 6, 2016)

In this child sexual assault case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by permitting certain testimony by the State’s experts because of a discovery violation. The experts included Blair Cobb, a licensed clinical social worker and pediatric therapist who testified as an expert in child counseling, and Cynthia Stewart, a social worker who testified as an expert in interviewing children in cases of suspected abuse or neglect. The defendant argued that the State violated G.S. 15A-903(a)(2) by not timely providing Stewart’s report and Cobb’s records and that as a result, he was prejudiced by lack of time to adequately prepare for cross-examination. The State served notice of expert witnesses on November 24, 2014, listing Stewart and Cobb, and indicating that the State would make the expert’s reports available during discovery and that their CVs would be forthcoming. The State provided initial discovery on December 2, 2014, including Stewart’s report, prepared after her interview with the child and stating her impressions and recommendations as well as a 30-page report by Cobb regarding her visits with the child and comprehensive clinical assessment. On January 29, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for additional materials, requesting that each expert prepare a meaningful and detailed report. At a hearing on February 2, 2015, the trial court instructed the State to have Stewart and Cobb couch their diagnoses in the form of opinions. In mid-February 2015, the State provided further discovery, including additional therapy notes from Cobb and a revised letter from Cobb outlining the basis of her opinion, as well as a DVD recording of Stewart’s interview with the child. The defendant then asked the trial court to either exclude the expert opinions or give the defense additional time to prepare. The trial court continued the matter until April 13, 2015. On these facts, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he did not have time to adequately prepare to effectively cross-examine the experts.