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Florida First DCA finds that in arriving at expert conclusion about cause of crime victim’s death, medical expert was permitted to testify on redirect that he relied upon report of another medical expert who examined victim’s body

On September 10, 2020, in Barnes v. State of Florida, No. 1D19-889, a criminal case, the Florida First DCA considered a defendant’s claim that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for mistrial after the medical examiner testified on redirect examination that a radiologist found that the victim’s x-ray revealed no bone abnormalities. The defendant relied on Linn v. Fossum, 946 So. 2d 1032 (Fla. 2006), which held that “an expert is not permitted to testify on direct examination that the expert relied on consultations with colleagues or other experts in reaching his or her opinion.” Id. However, the First DCA concluded that the medical examiner was permitted to rely upon the radiologist’s report that the victim’s x-ray revealed no bone abnormalities, as well as his own observations of the victim’s bones during the autopsy, citing, inter alia, J.V. v. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs., 967 So. 2d 354, 356 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) (holding that a board-certified pediatrician and expert in child abuse, who testified in a dependency proceeding, was entitled to rely on the hospital radiologist’s report that the x-rays and CT scan showed a fracture). Although the First DCA did not explicitly explain the distinction between the holdings in Linn v. Fossum and J.V. v. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs, in this case the medical examiner testified on redirect that he had used the findings of other medical experts to make the preliminary findings that informed his expert opinion. The expert apparently did not testify that he relied on consultations with other experts in reaching his expert conclusions. In contrast, the expert in Linn v. Fossum testified on direct examination that he reached his expert opinion based on a brief conference with several other urologists whom he regarded as representative of the general urologic community. This was considered improper bolstering of the witness’ testimony.

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