CSAAS Testimony and Retroactivity (Part 2)

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Solomon continued in relevant part: R.P. married “Susan’s” mother. Susan claims that R.P. began regularly sexually abusing her when she was in third grade and continued to abuse her until she informed her mother two years later. R.P. was arrested. Susan later recanted but then reaffirmed her allegations. At trial, the State presented testimony from Susan and the detective from the Prosecutor’s Office who initially interviewed Susan. The State also presented an expert witness to provide background information about CSAAS and describe its five components. R.P. did not object to the State’s use of CSAAS evidence at trial but did challenge the acceptance of CSAAS testimony on cross-examination and presented a counter-expert. The court provided model CSAAS instructions. A jury convicted R.P. of three counts of first-degree aggravated assault, four counts of second-degree sexual assault, and two counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

“Nancy,” C.P.’s stepdaughter, claimed that C.P.’s sexual abuse of her began when she was in third grade. Nancy eventually confided in her eighth-grade boyfriend about C.P.’s abuse but asked him not to disclose it for fear that the State would remove her siblings. Nancy claimed the abuse continued until later that year when she moved to Florida to live with her great aunt, to whom she also revealed C.P.’s abuse. C.P. was arrested, and his first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked. Before C.P.’s second trial, the State and defendant each sought to introduce CSAAS expert testimony, which had not been presented during the first trial. The motion court granted both requests. At the second trial, the State presented, in addition to CSAAS testimony, the testimony of Nancy’s great aunt and eighth-grade boyfriend, both of whom recounted their respective conversations with Nancy during which she disclosed C.P.’s alleged abuse. During its final jury charge, the trial court recited the model CSAAS instructions. C.P. was convicted of seven counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, eleven counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

It is interesting that C.P.’s defense also sought to introduce CSAAS testimony at his second trial. This was likely done in response to the State’s decision to present the testimony when it did not do so at the first trial.