The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR.
This Opinion addresses defendant's proffer of factual and expert opinion testimony with respect to a condition known as the "battered woman's syndrome." The government resists the introduction of such evidence at trial. The issues were discussed in defendant's memorandum dated April 7, 1993; at a hearing held before the Court on that date to consider the matter in limine; and in a further exchange of correspondence between counsel.
Defendant Taylor is charged in four counts of the indictment with conspiracy and substantive counts of bribery arising out of her service as a supervisory employee in the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), stationed at that agency's district office in the Bronx. The indictment charged two other employees of the Bronx office with Taylor: Roy Slusher and Jean Gilliam. Gilliam pled guilty prior to trial. The trial of Taylor and Slusher was scheduled to begin on April 12, 1993. On that date, counsel for Taylor advised the Court that her physicians had recommended that she be admitted to a hospital because of cardiac problems. Because of the uncertainty surrounding Taylor's medical condition, I severed the trials of Taylor and Slusher and began jury selection on the trial of Slusher on April 13. On April 21, during the presentation of the government's case-in-chief, Slusher pled guilty to the conspiracy count and the three substantive counts of the indictment in which he was charged. These are the same counts in which Taylor is charged.
At a hearing on April 27, 1993, counsel for Taylor informed the Court that Taylor's physicians deemed her fit to stand trial. A July 6, 1993 trial date has been set. Pending before this Court is defendant Taylor's motion in limine for a ruling on the admissibility of certain factual and expert testimony concerning "battered woman's syndrome". To understand the context in which Taylor's proffer of testimony arises, it is useful to review the evidence the government intends to offer against Taylor.
The Bronx office of the Department of Motor Vehicles played a prominent part in an on-going investigation into corruption directed by the Auto Crimes Division of the New York Police Department ("NYPD"), with the assistance of several Federal agencies. A time came when a target of the investigation, being surveilled by NYPD officers, led them to an apparently incriminating encounter between the target and Roy Slusher. That encounter took place at a site in the Bronx where Slusher and other DMV employees were administering driver's road tests.
While the trial evidence indicated that at the pertinent times Slusher resided in Yonkers, he also maintained an apartment on Fenton Avenue in the Bronx. The confidential informant, under NYPD direction, conducted much of his illicit business with Slusher in the Fenton Avenue apartment. At those meetings, the CI wore a transmitter which looked like an ordinary beeper, and enabled the police officers, situated nearby in a highly sophisticated surveillance van, to "monitor" (that is, listen to) and record conversations taking place in the apartment. They did so, according to the police evidence, on over 20 occasions before Slusher was arrested and a search warrant executed at the Fenton Avenue address.
The government's case against Mary Taylor is that she, as Slusher's supervisor, was also involved in the conspiracy and the substantive offenses. The conversations recorded in the Fenton Avenue apartment reveal that Taylor was present on a number of occasions, and participated in those conversations in a manner which the government contends is incriminating as to her. The search of the Fenton Avenue apartment unearthed a number of DMV forms and documents which Slusher had no legitimate reason for maintaining at his home. In addition, counsel stated during the in limine hearings on this issue that Slusher and Taylor maintained a joint bank account somewhere in the Bronx, although evidence of that arrangement had not been adduced at the Slusher trial before Slusher pled guilty.
It is in these circumstances that defendant Taylor wishes to offer factual and expert opinion evidence on what has come to be known as the "battered woman's syndrome". Specifically, counsel for Taylor sets forth two reasons why the proffered testimony should be received.
The defense wishes to show "the physical and emotional abuse, humiliation and degradation suffered by Mary Taylor at home," in order to provide the jury "with an understanding of a different and innocent explanation for her presence in this apartment with Roy Slusher." Counsel further argues that "evidence of the pain she suffered at home will also tend to explain conduct by Mary Taylor that the government claims is evidence of guilt", such as maintenance of the joint bank account with Slusher. Counsel continues:
Fundamental fairness and the constitutional guarantees of due process require that Mary Taylor be able to present evidence which casts an entirely different light on the apparent closeness between Mary Taylor and Roy Slusher. Further, it is not enough to simply elicit that Mary Taylor and Roy Slusher were close. To avoid the prejudice arising from her relationship with a man not her husband, the defense must adduce the extent of the pain ...