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State v. Brown

Supreme Court of Iowa

December 5, 2014

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
MATTHEW EUGENE BROWN, Appellant

On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cedar County, Mark D. Cleve, Judge. The State seeks further review of a court of appeals decision reversing a defendant's conviction because the district court allowed expert testimony vouching for the victim's credibility.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, and Jeffrey L. Renander, County Attorney, for appellee.

WIGGINS, Justice. All justices concur except Mansfield, J., who concurs specially.

OPINION

Page 686

WIGGINS, Justice.

This case involves a charge of sexual abuse in the second degree in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.3(2) (2011). A jury convicted the defendant of this charge. On appeal, the defendant contends he is entitled to a new trial because a certain expert witness vouched for the credibility of the victim. We transferred the case to our court of appeals. The court of appeals held the defendant is entitled to a new trial on the ground an expert witness vouched for the credibility of the victim.

The State sought further review, which we granted. On further review, we agree with the court of appeals that the defendant is entitled to a new trial on the ground an expert witness vouched for the credibility of the victim. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals and remand the case for a new trial.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In the summer of 2011, A.T., along with her brother, went to her older stepsister's home for a sleepover. Her stepsister was engaged to and living with defendant Matthew Brown, and the couple had a four-year-old

Page 687

daughter. Brown, his fiancé, and all three children spent the day fishing and playing. Upon returning to Brown's home that evening, the children got ready for bed and slept on the living room floor. Each child had a blanket and pillow for sleeping. Brown's daughter was unable to fall asleep, so he stayed in the living room with her to calm her down. A.T.'s stepsister remained in her bedroom, playing computer games on her tablet until she fell asleep. Brown fell asleep on the floor with the children.

A.T. claims while she was on the living room floor, Brown used his hand to rub her vagina, but he did not put his hand inside her vagina.

A.T. alleges this occurred while her brother and niece were also sleeping on the floor with her; however, they were not awake. A.T. stated she was wearing a t-shirt and underwear at the time and she could not remember if Brown touched her under or on top of her underwear. A.T. further stated Brown did not say anything to A.T., either during or after the incident. A.T. said after Brown touched her vagina she got up and had breakfast.

On the morning of August 26, A.T.'s mother was cleaning the child's genital area when A.T. said Brown had touched her vagina on two occasions while she was at Brown's home. A.T.'s other sister was also present for this disclosure. A.T.'s mother stated they were not talking about Brown at the time and the statement came out of nowhere. The mother also stated A.T. told her Brown had made her touch his penis; however, A.T. denied she touched or saw Brown's penis. A.T. further stated she could not remember Brown touching her any other time. A.T.'s mother immediately wrote ...


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