the Defendant: Maryam Jahedi, Esq.
the People: Jessica Troy, Esq., Office of the District
Jose Felix moves for an order precluding prosecution
testimony about "Child Sexual Abuse Syndrome"
[hereinafter "CSAS"]. In the alternative, defendant
seeks a Frye hearing concerning such testimony.
See Frye v. United States, 293 F 1013 (DC Cir 1923).
Defendant's motion will be denied, except as noted below.
is charged with one count of Sexual Conduct Against a Child
in the First Degree, and related crimes. The People's
theory is that defendant abused a young family member on five
occasions over the course of about 11 years, while she was
from 12 to 23 years old. The complainant reported the crimes
only after the final incident.
People intend to call at trial a psychologist, Dr. Eileen
Treacy. Dr. Treacy would testify about CSAS.  In
particular, she would note that certain types of behavior by
the victim which might otherwise seem odd are in fact
consistent with the conduct of a number of other child sexual
abuse victims. The doctor would not testify to a general
group of "symptoms" of child abuse, and encourage
jurors to conclude from similar circumstances in this case
that abuse occurred. Nor would Dr. Treacy opine that the
complaining witness in fact was abused, much less that
defendant abused her.
asserts that the testimony proffered by the People is not, or
at least is no longer, generally considered reliable by
members of the relevant scientific community. On that point,
defendant insists, it would be in order at least to hold a
Frye hearing. Defendant argues as well that the
expert testimony should not be admitted because its subjects
are not "beyond the ken" of a typical juror. In the
alternative, defendant asks that on this point a ruling be
held in abeyance until after a "thorough" voir dire
tests whether the jurors require expert aid.
legal standards which govern defendant's Frye
claim are well settled. Opinion evidence from experts, and in
particular expert testimony based on science, may be received
in New York. But that is true only if the members of the
relevant scientific community generally accept the validity
of the underlying principles. The acceptance need not be
unanimous. Still, the proponent of the evidence must show
widespread agreement about those principles in that relevant
individual case the existence of a Frye consensus
may be demonstrated in several ways. The simplest method is
for the proponent of expert testimony to show that New
York's courts have already recognized that there is
general scientific acceptance of the evidence. That method
applies here. Numerous appellate decisions hold admissible,
against challenges akin to defendant's, testimony about
CSAS and related syndromes. See, e.g.,
People v. Carroll, 95 N.Y.2d 375 (2000); People
v. Taylor, 75 N.Y.2d 277 (1990); People v.
Houston, 250 A.D.2d 535 (1st Dept. 1998). Defendant does
not dispute the existence of that legal authority. He does
cite cases from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. But
even if those cases are read to bar all CSAS-type testimony,
they plainly are not controlling in the face of New York
cases like those cited above.
thus seeks in effect to re-argue the holdings of the New York
cases. He suggests that the prior consensus about the
validity of CSAS testimony has disappeared, and that this
court should rule that such testimony no longer can be
admitted. It plainly is possible for new developments to
disrupt a well-established consensus and require the courts
to reverse prior Frye rulings. Right now, the
admissibility of several types of forensic evidence which
were accepted in the past-hair match and bite mark evidence,
for example-is undergoing re-evaluation.
for defendant, he can bring little to the table to support
his claim that the CSAS consensus is no longer extant. At the
heart of his argument is a single recent article-one
published in 2015 in a law journal, not a scientific one.
The author of that article, like the several authors of older
works which defendant cites, complains of uses of CSAS
testimony that are not permitted in New York.
See Section C, infra. It would take far
more than that article, and older books or articles ...