[Note: the audio sync issues happened during the recording. Sorry about that.]
Court: Florida Third District Court of Appeal
Judges: Cortinas, Rothenberg, Fernandez
Attorneys: Kevin Colbert for the Father; Karla Perkins for DCF; Hillary Kambour for GAL Program
Issues: whether it is fundamental error for a court to not rule on a child hearsay motion prior to the trial or prior to the defense’s case; whether the time between initial disclosure and CAC of the child can make the statements unreliable as a matter of law; whether the corroborating evidence in this case was sufficient.
Summary: The Third was not biting on the argument that child hearsay motion hearings have to be held pre-trial, standing beside M.H. v. DHRS, 703 So.2d 1195
(Fla. 1st DCA 1997) (“We also find that in the context of a nonjury case, such as a dependency hearing, the fact that the necessary findings are not made until the conclusion of the case does not violate the principles announced in M.B., Mathis, or R.L.R.”).
Mr. Colbert was able to garner some sympathy for the idea that the ruling on the motion should be issued prior to the defense’s case, but in this particular case, from Ms. Kambour’s skillful and diplomatic refusal to concede the issue of whether this “is very different” when the ruling comes at the end of the trial (at 18:37), it would appear that trial defense counsel did not request a ruling prior to proceeding with her case.
As for the reliability and corroborative evidence, it would appear that there was a lot of testimony on the record about both of these, which would give the trial court something to rely on. Apparently five experts testified about the length of time between the initial disclosure of abuse and the forensic interview. Four of them thought it was not a problem; one–the defense witness–thought it was.
Prediction: Either a PCA or a bread-crumbs affirmance putting future defense attorneys on notice that they need to preserve the issue by requesting a ruling if this happens again.
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