November 10, 2015.
From Beaufort County. Kristi Lea Harrington, Circuit Court
Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-002158.
Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Appellant.
General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General
William M. Blitch, Jr., both of Columbia; and Solicitor Isaac
McDuffie Stone, III, of Bluffton, for Respondent.
J. SHORT and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.
Barrett appeals his conviction for a lewd act upon a minor,
arguing the trial court erred in (1) qualifying Kendra Twitty
as an expert " mental health professional, specifically
in the area of child sexual abuse characteristics," and
(2) failing to grant a continuance for him to obtain an
expert to dispute her testimony. We affirm.
jury indicted Barrett for criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with
a minor, lewd act upon a minor, and kidnapping for acts he
allegedly committed upon Victim. Barrett proceeded to trial
and immediately before a Monday morning pretrial motions
hearing, he moved for a continuance to obtain an expert in
Child Sexual Assault Accommodation Syndrome, arguing the
State did not disclose its intention to introduce evidence
regarding Child Sexual Assault Accommodation Syndrome until
the prior Thursday. The trial court denied the motion because
Twitty was previously named as the forensic interviewer
assigned to this case. Barrett also moved to prohibit the
qualification of Twitty as an expert, use of the term "
forensic interviewer," and Twitty's testimony in its
entirety, arguing the testimony would amount to vouching or
bolstering Victim's testimony. The trial court withheld
ruling until after hearing testimony from Victim.
Victim's testimony, outside the presence of the jury, the
State sought to qualify Twitty as an " expert regarding
the behavior of and trauma of child sexual abuse
victims." The State offered to avoid using the term
" Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome" as it
believed avoiding the term would alleviate any potential
confusion by the jury. After additional arguments, the State
explained it did not intend to offer her as an expert
regarding the syndrome; instead, it sought to offer her as an
expert " practitioner of mental health specifically
dealing with children [victimized by] child sexual
assault." Over Barrett's objection, the trial court
ruled Twitty could discuss general behavioral evidence
regarding delayed disclosure. The State noted it would first
question Twitty regarding the Kromah  factors for
Victim's forensic interview, and then it would seek to
qualify Twitty as a mental health expert and offer her expert
presence of the jury, Twitty testified she was a forensic
interviewer and counselor/therapist at a children's
advocacy and rape crisis center. She described the forensic
interview she conducted with Victim. She also summarized her
education, training, and experience in the mental health
field. The State sought to admit her as an expert "
mental health professional working with victims of child
sexual abuse and trauma." Barrett objected and proceeded
to voir dire. Following voir dire, Barrett again objected to
Twitty's qualification. Ultimately, the trial court
qualified her as an expert " mental health professional,
specifically in the area of child sexual abuse
found Barrett guilty of a lewd act upon a minor. The jury
found Barrett not guilty of kidnapping and was unable to
reach a unanimous decision as to the CSC with a minor charge.
The trial court sentenced him to twelve years'
imprisonment, suspended upon nine years' imprisonment and
four years' probation. The trial court also subjected him
to mandatory GPS monitoring, required him to complete a
sexual offender treatment program, and placed him on the sex
offender registry. This appeal followed.
1. Did the trial court err in qualifying an expert witness