The Court of Appeals ruled the coaching testimony was proper based on the literature and the fact that the expert had ten years of experience as a therapist and supervisor at a children's assessment center. The court specifically rejected the defendant's objection that her testimony about coaching lacked support in studies using statistical analysis. According to the Court, the absence of epidemiology "goes to the weight" of the evidence, not its admissibility.
This is explaining the Court of Appeal's response to part of Coy’s appeal, in which his lawyer objected to Susan Szczgielski’s opinion on coaching. The ‘weight of the evidence’ refers to its scientific backing; the more backing it has, the weightier it is. Admissibility is whether or not it’s allowed in court.
If I understand this correctly, the state’s expert said “This girl shows no signs of having been coached."
The defense lawyer said “But there are no ‘signs of coaching’. It’s not a fucking science; it’s not something that can be proven one way or the other, how are you going to let this woman testify as an ‘expert’ that Jane Doe does not show any non-existent “signs”?”
The court’s response “Look, the fact that she produced no scientific proof of her claims is enough to let the jury know that she’s testifying about something that’s un-provable and subjective. There’s no reason not to allow it.”
In ‘Moham Mitchell’ Carlos Coy said “I shot the Tooth Fairy trying to reach under my pillow”. Let’s submit this as evidence to an imaginary court.
1. I testify “Coy says he shot the Tooth Fairy.””
Well, there’s not a lot of weight to this evidence. I can prove he said it, but I’m not offering any proof that the statement is true.
2. Coy testifies “I shot the Tooth Fairy.”
There’s a little more weight here; Coy is admitting that he himself shot her, and if he can be relied upon as a truthful witness, we have reason to believe him. But it’s probably not enough for a conviction, outside of Texas.
Has anyone seen the Tooth Fairy lately? Was there any sparkly blood drops picked up from Coy's car by the forensics team? Did Coy have a history of unpleasantness with the fairy or any of her relatives? Answers to these questions will either add or remove weight from his confession.
3. Coy testifies “I shot the Tooth Fairy, and I have her little pixie body in my pocket.”
This evidence carries a great deal of weight; the confession of Coy, combined with the physical proof of the fairy body riddled with bullet holes, gives this testimony a great deal of weight. Of course, Coy could be covering for someone, so we add or remove weight by examining the bullet wound, and comparing it to any guns that Coy had access to. We check his hands for gunshot residue. We find out where he was when the shooting occurred. Weight is added through scientific verification.
Of course this is all ridiculous, because the Tooth Fairy’s non-existence means that any testimony about her would be laughed out of court; in a word, inadmissible. But you know what else doesn’t exist? Signs of coaching; there’s no concrete list of things a child does or says that indicates they have or haven’t been coached.
I’m not saying that ‘coaching’ doesn’t exist; the courts themselves admit that it does. What does not exist, as far as I can tell, are consistent signs or symptoms that it’s happened. No one can say “The fact that this child is/is not doing A, B, or C is proof that they have not been coached.” All anyone can do is form an opinion based on their own personal experience, biases and interpretations.
The problem I see here is that this woman’s opinion carried with it all the weight and authority of the court that declared her an expert. Denying that the jury would have taken it more seriously than they should have is asinine and naïve in a really disgusting, self-congratulatory sort of way.
It’s mentioned in the appeal that the state expert’s testimony lacked support in studies using statistical analysis and that there was an absence of epidemiology (statistical studies measuring the existence of these ‘signs’.)
If they’re going to allow their experts to pop off with this kind of “it’s only an opinion wink wink” type of evidence, I think it would only be fair to require them to precede every bit of unweighty-but-admissible testimony with an announcement from the judge: “Now y’all listen to this bullshit here.”