State v. Spinks, ___ N.C. App. ___, 808 S.E.2d 350 (Nov. 21, 2017)

(1) In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by admitting an assessment in a report by the State’s medical expert, Dr. Thomas, of “Child sexual abuse.” Thomas testified to general characteristics of abused children. She did not offer an opinion that the victim had been sexually abused or that the victim fell into the category of children who have been sexually abused but showed no physical symptoms of abuse. The report in question includes a statement: “Chief Concern: Possible child sexual abuse.” The statement at issue in the report was in a paragraph entitled Assessment and Recommendations, which began with the following sentence: “Child sexual abuse by [victim’s] disclosure.” The court rejected the argument that Thomas opined that the victim had been sexually abused. It concluded that the phrase at issue merely introduced the paragraph of the report dealing with the victim’s disclosure.

(2) In this child sexual assault case, no plain error occurred with respect to admission of certain statements made by the State’s medical expert, Dr. Thomas, alleged by the defendant to impermissibly bolster and vouch for the victim’s credibility. In her written report, Thomas wrote that the victim’s disclosures have been “consistent and compelling” and that she “agree[s] with law enforcement in this compelling and concerning case.” It is not improper for an expert to testify to a victim’s examination being “consistent” with the victim’s statements of abuse. Here, the defendant argued that “compelling” was the problematic word. Assuming arguendo that admission of the statements was error, it did not rise to the level of plain error.