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State v. JLG

190 A. 3d 442 (2018)

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State v. JLG

New Jersey Supreme Court

190 A. 3d 442 (2018)

Facts

Bonnie was sexually abused by JLG (defendant), her mother’s boyfriend, for approximately 18 months. Bonnie did not initially report the abuse because JLG had held a gun to her head and threatened to hurt her, her mother, and her brother if she told anyone. Also, after hearing a report that JLG might have engaged in inappropriate behavior with Bonnie, Bonnie’s mother asked Bonnie about JLG and threatened to kill him if he was abusing Bonnie. Bonnie was concerned that if she disclosed the abuse, her mother might do something to end up in prison. However, Bonnie was eventually unable to continue enduring the abuse. Bonnie used her phone to record a video of the abuse for evidence and then finally told her mother. JLG was arrested and charged with crimes relating to the abuse. At trial, JLG argued that Bonnie’s delay in reporting her allegations made her less credible. The trial court admitted expert testimony about Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) to educate the jurors about potentially counterintuitive behaviors that were sometimes exhibited by child sexual-abuse victims, such as delays in reporting the abuse. The trial court instructed the jury that the CSAAS evidence was meant only to help understand why an abuse victim might delay making a report and was not evidence that Bonnie’s abuse had actually occurred. The jury convicted JLG, and he appealed. On appeal, JLG argued that the CSAAS evidence was not sufficiently reliable and should not have been admitted as expert scientific evidence. The New Jersey Supreme Court remanded the issue to the trial court for additional fact-finding about the current state of the science surrounding CSAAS. The trial court found that delayed reporting was the only CSAAS behavior that the scientific community agreed was reliably exhibited by child sexual-abuse victims. The supreme court then considered JLG’s appeal in light of the trial court’s additional findings.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rabner, C.J.)

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