Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-8-01961-1. Date filed: 02/09/95.
Petition for Review Denied July 8, 1997,
Authored by Walter E. Webster. Concurring: Susan R. Agid, Mary K. Becker.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Webster
WEBSTER, J. -- The defendant, a juvenile, appeals his conviction of first degree child molestation of a three-year-old girl. He argues that sufficient indicia of reliability did not support admission of the victim's hearsay statements to her mother under the child hearsay statute, and that admitting that evidence violated his right of confrontation. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support a reasonable inference that the touching was for the purpose of sexual gratification.
We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the child hearsay testimony, the testimony's admission did not violate his right of confrontation, and the evidence was sufficient. Accordingly, we affirm.
The defendant, age 12, volunteered at the day care that L.C., age three, attended. During L.C.'s nap time one day, the defendant fondled her genital area beneath her clothing. L.C. reported the incident to her mother, and the defendant confessed to the touching when a police officer questioned him.
Prior to trial, the court held a hearing to determine if L.C., then age four, was competent to testify. L.C. was able to respond to questions and provide details such as what she received for her last birthday. But she was easily led by the attorneys to describe situations that clearly were not true. For example, she explained that her father was a ghost that lived in her closet so her grandfather would not turn him into a pumpkin.
The trial court determined that she was not competent to testify under the Allen *fn1 factors because she was easily led and had a vivid imagination.
Next the court examined the Ryan *fn2 factors to determine whether sufficient reliability supported L.C.'s hearsay statements to her mother.
The statements took place after a phone conversation in which L.C.'s mother learned of an unrelated incident of child molestation. She asked L.C. whether anyone had ever touched her "privates" or "pee pee." L.C. responded that a boy had touched her "pee pee." She demonstrated how this was done by placing her hand inside her underpants and moving it over her vaginal area. She explained that it happened during nap time at the day care and variously identified the perpetrator as "a man with white hair" and someone named "John." (The defendant, whose name is similar to John, has very blond hair). L.C.'s mother described L.C.'s demeanor as serious, but innocent, during this exchange. The court determined that sufficient indicia of reliability existed to admit the hearsay statements as corroborated by the defendant's confession.
The trial court ultimately found the defendant guilty and gave him a Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative rather than confinement.
Reliability of Child Hearsay ...