The appellant asked the current court to opine that the circuit court erred when it allowed five physicians to provide expert testimony. The criminal court of appeals affirmed the circuit court convictions.
Facts: This case (Eric Payne v. State of Alabama – Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals – February 10th, 2017) is an appeal for a conviction of the intentional murder of J.P. by the appellant Eric Payne. Payne argues that the circuit court erred in allowing five physicians to provide expert witness testimony concerning the cause of J.P.’s injuries. These physicians were Drs. Michelle Kong and Leslie Hayes (Pediatrics Expert Witnesses), Dr. Richard Martin (Radiology Expert Witness), Dr. Martin Cogen (Ophthalmology Expert Witness), and Dr. Steven Dunton (Pathology Expert Witness).
Discussion: The circuit court opined that Dr. Kong was admitted as an expert because the subject matter of the testimony was within her field of practice and has proven that she has the training and experience in dealing with injuries similar to the child at issue in this case. In addition, the court stated that Dr. Kong’s opinions were based on tests, examinations, treatments to the victim, and that she had firsthand knowledge of the victim’s condition. Dr. Kong testified that the injuries suffered by J.P. were more severe than what would have caused by falling off a bed. The circuit court affirmed the admittance of Dr. Kong as an expert.
Regarding Dr. Hayes, the circuit court ruled that her testimony should be allowed for the same reasons as Dr. Kong. Dr. Hayes reported that the injuries suffered by J.P. were not consistent with falling out of a bed, but they were consistent with an child that was not restrained having been ejected from a vehicle. This ruling was also affirmed by the current court.
Dr. Richard Martin, a radiologist, was also allowed by the circuit court. Dr. Martin was questioned by the defense council on how he reached his conclusions. Mr. Martin explained that he reached his conclusions based on the product of his experience, his training, and what he has read in textbooks over the years. Dr. Martin also testified that the injuries suffered by J.P. were the result of severe trauma and not consistent with having fallen out of a bed. The current court affirmed this testimony as well.
Dr. Martin Cogen’s testimony was also allowed by the circuit court. The court stated that the subject matter was within his field of practice and that he was proven to have experience dealing with eye injuries to children, and that his opinion was based on tests, examinations, and treatments given to the victim. Dr. Cogen’s opinion was the the amount of damage to J.P.’s retinas were not consistent with a fall from a bed but were consistent with some type of violent back and forth movement. The current court affirmed this as well.
Dr. Dunton was also allowed by the circuit court and affirmed by the current court.
Conclusion: The opinions of the circuit court allowing the expert witness testimony was affirmed.