The Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI), a special program of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is pleased to announce the receipt of a grant from the State of Minnesota’s Office of Justice Programs. The Expert Testimony Resources Project is designed to increase the use and effectiveness of expert testimony in criminal sexual conduct cases and increase the collaboration between healthcare professionals, prosecutors and victim advocates. At the conclusion of this project, these professionals will better understand the tools available to vigorously prosecute these cases and more victims will benefit from a victim-centered response. This project concluded in December 2012.
Collaboration between Prosecutors and Healthcare Professionals
The successful prosecution of criminal sexual conduct cases requires collaboration among the disciplines most central to the criminal justice system – law enforcement, victim advocates, healthcare professionals and prosecutors. Prosecutors and healthcare professionals have little opportunity to work with victims concurrently, and therefore have little opportunity to educate each other on their unique, but equally important, professional roles. This lack of familiarity contributes to poor case outcomes because it is difficult for healthcare professionals to understand how their practices affect the criminal justice process, and it is difficult for prosecutors to understand what happens in exam rooms. Yet, the strength of the prosecutor’s case often hinges on the quality of the victim’s interview and forensic evidence collection, elements of the case conducted by healthcare professionals. This Project will created several opportunities for these professionals to interact and educate each other on their roles.
New Opportunities Created by State v. Obeta
The recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision State v. Obeta, 796 N.W.2d 282 (Minn. 2011) created an avenue for prosecutors to utilize general expert testimony to help explain victim behaviors that are commonly misunderstood by jurors such as delayed reporting or lack of physical resistance. SVJI developed a training curriculum to ensure that prosecutors and other professionals are aware of this new opportunity and understand when an expert might be warranted, and the limits of utilizing this type of testimony.
Five Testimony Institutes were held in various regions of Minnesota during this Project. The Institutes provided prosecutors, healthcare professionals and victim advocates with the education, tools and time to practice testimony-delivery and testimony-elicitation skills. Participants had the opportunity to review mock case files, prepare patient charts, and practice their testimony skills in a true-to-life courtroom setting. Having the opportunity to practice testimony skills and receive feedback helped to reduce the anxiety that many professionals have associated with testifying.
Past Testimony Institutes:
Pilot Institute, St. Paul, MN (November 2011)
Anoka County Institute (February 2012)
Redwood Falls, MN (May 2012)
Grand Rapids, MN (July 2012)
November 29-30, 2012, St. Paul, MN
To learn more about the Testimony Institutes or other project activites, please contact Melia Garza, Project Coordinator at email@example.com or Caroline Palmer, Staff Attorney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2011-VAWA-00221 awarded by the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs with funding from the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this project are those of the MNCASA and do not necessarily represent the views of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety or the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.