State Appeals Precedent-Setting Ruling in Rape Case
'Ruling in Carthage Rape Case Makes New Law'
The original story about the case, written by John Chappell, was published on the site May 16. Click here to read the story.
Attorneys for the state have filed notice of appeal from a precedent-setting ruling in a Carthage criminal case.
Superior Court Judge John O. Craig III had previously granted a motion to suppress expert testimony about “repressed memory” or “recovered memory” — the claim that a person can suddenly recall traumatic events from years past of which they had had no prior conscious awareness.
Pinehurst lawyers Eddie Meacham and Patrick Mincey represent a defendant accused by his daughter of a rape that allegedly took place many years ago. She claims she had no recollection of it until, during therapy, the memory suddenly returned. A state Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hydleburg blocks an accuser of testifying to a so-called “recovered” memory unless an expert also testifies.
Craig’s ruling blocked that expert testimony. If upheld, it would set a precedent in North Carolina that effectively denies admission of any recovered memory testimony. No court in the state has previously ruled on the question in any criminal case, so Craig’s decision currently stands.
Special Deputy Attorney General Laura Parker indicated to the court at the conclusion of the hearing that the state would appeal Craig’s decision. Formal notice of appeal came the following week from the state attorney general’s office. While Parker has now filed formal notice of appeal, no actual appeal has yet been filed.
Parker herself will not handle any appeal, should the state actually file one. In a brief telephone interview she speculated on two possible grounds on which appellant attorneys from the attorney general’s office might base such an appeal. While Craig’s ruling was based on a trial judge’s discretionary authority, Parker did not include a claim of abuse of discretion in possible grounds for an appeal.
One would be an objection to Craig’s not allowing any details of events in the alleged rape to be offered during the hearing on the defense motion to suppress. Meacham and Mincey argued any such testimony would be irrelevant unless repressed memory testimony was allowed. Craig agreed, and subsequently granted the defense motion to suppress.
Another contention the state might make if it actually does file an appeal is that the question of whether expert testimony may be admitted was already decided in the Hydleburg case, according to Parker.
The state might contend that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hydleburg that requires expert testimony where “repressed memory” or “recovered memory” (the terms are synonymous) is involved means such testimony must be allowed, Parker said.
For the present, Craig’s ruling is a precedent affecting all cases of this kind in the state of North Carolina, both defense and prosecution agree.
Court Reporter Betty Jo Stripe has 60 days in which to prepare a transcript of the proceedings. Once that is done, the state will have 35 days to prepare the record on appeal, and after that defense attorneys Patrick Mincey and Eddie Meacham have additional time to accept or propose changes to that record.
Only then will the state be able to prepare and file any appeal, and the defense any response. Parker’s work is done.
“I am not an appellant attorney,” Parker said. “After the record on appeal is complete, an appellant attorney will be appointed from the Attorney General’s office who will prepare the appeal.”
Should that take place, the state’s brief along with any responding brief from the defense goes up to the Court of Appeals. That court might rule on the basis of briefs in the case, or hear oral arguments. A split decision by the Court of Appeals could go on up to the state’s high court. All this takes time.
“It could take a year,” Mincey said earlier.
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