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Morris v. State
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
361 S.W.3d 649 (2011)
Daniel Morris (plaintiff) was the victim’s stepfather. Starting when the victim was 11 years old, Morris spent time alone with the victim, discussed sexual matters with the victim, touched the victim in increasingly intimate places, including the victim’s genitals, and watched pornographic videos with the victim. Morris eventually progressed to spending nights in the victim’s bed but did not engage in sexual penetration. Morris’s inappropriate relationship with the victim continued for a period of several years. The State of Texas (defendant) ultimately charged Morris for indecent behavior with a child. At trial, Texas presented expert testimony from Special Texas Ranger David Hullum regarding the grooming techniques employed by child molesters. Hullum was not a psychologist and had no formal psychological training. However, Hullum had 3,500 hours of law enforcement training and nearly 30 years of experience, during which he had investigated 75 child sexual abuse cases. Hullum had also previously been recognized as an expert in other Texas trials involving child sexual abuse charges. Hullum testified that grooming was a way for sex offenders to desensitize children for exploitation by building trust and intimacy over time. Hullum testified that, in the grooming process, an offender slowly increases intimacy in the relationship with their child victim by progressing from innocent touches to sexual contact and by gradually introducing sexual topics and activities. The trial court convicted Morris. Morris appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have introduced Hullum’s testimony because (1) grooming was not a scientifically accepted theory; (2) Hullum had no formal scientific training qualifying him as an expert; and (3) grooming was not a legitimate field of expertise. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Hullum’s extensive law enforcement experience qualified him to testify and that scientific credentials were not required because grooming was a soft science, not a hard science. Morris appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Keller, J.)
Concurrence (Cochran, J.)
Dissent (Price, J.)
Dissent (Meyers, J.)
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