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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. HARRY RAY SEESE (11/17/86)

decided: November 17, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
HARRY RAY SEESE, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, at No. 973 Pittsburgh, 1983 dated April 19, 1985, affirming the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at No. 1197 of 1982, July 22, 1983. Pa. Super. ; 495 A.2d 615 (1985).

COUNSEL

Carmela R.M. Presogna, Asst. Public Defender, Erie, for appellant.

Michael J. Veshecco, Dist. Atty., Paul J. Susko, Asst. Dist. Atty., Erie, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Larsen, J., files a concurring opinion.

Author: Flaherty

[ 512 Pa. Page 440]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from a memorandum opinion and order of the Superior Court, 344 Pa. Super. 626, 495 A.2d 615, which affirmed judgments of sentence imposed upon the appellant, Harry Ray Seese, in connection with appellant's having been found guilty in a trial by jury of statutory rape and corruption of a minor. The incidents upon which the convictions were based involved appellant's sexual activities with an eight year old girl.

[ 512 Pa. Page 441]

The primary issue to be addressed in the instant appeal is whether the trial court erred in admitting testimony of the Commonwealth's expert witness, a board certified pediatrician, as to the veracity of eight year old children who claim to have been the objects of sexual abuse. The issue arose in this case because the eight year old victim had testified to sexual contacts initiated by appellant. Specifically, the pediatrician testified that she had, during the preceding four years, treated approximately 90 to 100 cases per year of alleged sexual abuse. Following that testimony, the prosecutor posed to the pediatrician the following question:

Based upon your experience and your pediatric specialization, does the medical literature say anything about children of the age of eight in giving complaints of sexual abuse or rape as far as their veracity?

Counsel for the defense objected to this question, and the court sustained the objection insofar as the reference to medical literature, but the court allowed the witness to answer the question with the proviso that the answer be based upon the witness' own knowledge and experience alone. When the question was rephrased in this manner, the witness testified as follows:

I think there is a couple of points to be made and to be objective about this. The first is, do children lie when they are put under stress with members of the family? It is very unusual that a child would lie about sexual abuse. Having said that there are many articles I could bring in and submit to the court. Prepubertal children, which she fits into the category of essentially that, do not lie. The sexual abuse literature is fraught with articles, and prepubertal children usually do not lie about matters of sexual abuse no matter how chaotic or uncomfortable their home situation is, one, because they don't know how to lie about it. They don't know what to say. It's not part of the life experience, so everything they say is something they have seen or experienced. It would be

[ 512 Pa. Page 442]

    very unusual for them to lie. I have seen one child in the four years that I have been doing this that I think was lying. She was a 16 year old girl, and I think she was lying for reasons of placement and so on, but I have not seen any younger children lie, and the articles, the medical literature articles bear that out. Even if she did, it would be ...


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