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State of Montana v. Christopher Steven Robins

March 19, 2013

STATE OF MONTANA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER STEVEN ROBINS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. ADC 10-450 Honorable Thomas M. McKittrick, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mike McGRATH

March 20 2013

Submitted on Briefs: November 28, 2012

Filed:

Clerk

Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Christopher Steven Robins (Robins) appeals from his convictions of Sexual Assault, Incest, and Attempted Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, all felonies, in the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County. We affirm.

¶2 The issue we address on appeal is whether the District Court abused its discretion when it allowed the State to present expert testimony regarding child sexual abuse victims.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶3 Robins was convicted of molesting his step-daughter, C.G., between the spring and fall of 2010. C.G. was thirteen years old during the abuse and fourteen at the time of trial. According to C.G., Robins first abused her during a family trip to Georgia in the spring of 2010. The abuse continued through October 29, 2010. At trial, C.G. recounted a number of incidents when Robins molested her. C.G. testified that Robins touched her breasts and vagina on a number of occasions. He also performed oral sex on her multiple times and unsuccessfully attempted to penetrate her vagina with his fingers, a vibrator, and his penis.

¶4 C.G. testified that, at first, it made her feel loved when Robins told her that she was beautiful and kissed her "how a mother should kiss a father." She also testified that Robins started to treat her better than her siblings after the abuse began. He gave her daily rides to school and bought her breakfast at McDonald's, took her to the shooting range without her siblings, and bought her gifts, including a new hunting bow and a motorcycle.

¶5 In the fall of 2010, C.G. took an eighth-grade sex education class. The sex education class made C.G. realize what Robins had been doing to her was wrong. C.G. wrote a note to Robins on October 29, 2010. She put the note under Robins's pillow inside the pillowcase because she did not want anyone else to see it. The note mentioned the abuse and expressed C.G.'s frustration with Robins. C.G.'s mother found the note only because she took a nap on Robins's pillow. Robins was charged with Incest and two counts of Attempted Sexual Intercourse Without Consent on December 3, 2010. One charge of Sexual Assault was added on May 3, 2011.

¶6 The State filed a Notice of Expert (NOE) on February 2, 2011, to identify Wendy Dutton (Dutton) as an expert that would testify at trial. The NOE specified that Dutton, a child sex abuse expert, would testify to "the various aspects of child sexual abuse including victimology, grooming, disclosure issues, interviewing techniques, and credibility of child sex victims." Robins filed a motion in limine on May 13, 2011, to preclude Dutton from testifying at trial. Robins argued that Dutton should not be allowed to testify because the danger of unfair prejudice would substantially outweigh her testimony's probative value. The District Court heard oral arguments on the motion on May 16, 2011, and took the matter under advisement for the time being. The jury was selected and given preliminary instructions later the same day. During trial, the court allowed Dutton to testify but gave the jury a cautionary instruction that her testimony could not be used as substantive evidence or as her opinion that Robins had committed the alleged crimes.

ΒΆ7 Dutton testified about the process of victimization, how victims disclose abuse, children's typical reactions to abuse, the most common situations when children make false allegations, and the proper protocol for conducting a forensic interview with a child. Dutton did not discuss the specifics ...


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