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State v. Haskie

Supreme Court of Arizona

August 15, 2017

MARK HASKIE, JR., Appellant.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Coconino County The Honorable Jacqueline Hatch, Judge No. CR2014-01006

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 240 Ariz. 269 (App. 2016) VACATED IN PART

          Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, Robert A. Walsh (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Capital Litigation Section, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona.

          Coconino County Public Defender's Office, Brad Bransky (argued), Deputy Public Defender, Flagstaff, Attorneys for Mark Haskie, Jr.

          David J. Euchner (argued), Assistant Public Defender, Tucson, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Pima County Public Defender's Office.

          JUSTICE BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and JUSTICES TIMMER, BOLICK, GOULD, and BERCH (retired) [*] joined.



         ¶1 During Mark Haskie, Jr.'s trial on felony charges arising from an incident of domestic violence, Dr. Kathleen Ferraro, testifying as an expert witness, described general behavioral tendencies of adult victims of domestic abuse. Haskie argues that Dr. Ferraro's testimony should have been excluded as impermissible profile evidence. Because the testimony helped the jury understand the victim's behavior and was more probative than prejudicial, the trial court did not err in admitting it.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Haskie assaulted his girlfriend, P.J., at a Flagstaff motel after searching through messages on her phone and threatening her, "I told you I would kill you if you cheated on me." That same day, P.J. wrote a statement for the police explaining that Haskie had beaten and strangled her. Physical evidence from the motel corroborated her statement. Haskie was arrested nearly a year later. Shortly after his arrest, P.J. wrote two letters to the prosecutor recanting her earlier statements to the police, claiming instead that her injuries were from a bar fight she could not remember and that Haskie was innocent.

         ¶3 Before trial, the State filed a motion in limine to admit testimony by Dr. Ferraro as a "cold" expert on domestic violence to help the jury understand why P.J. had "continued her relationship with the defendant, " "given conflicting statements while the case [was] pending, " and why she was "reluctant to testify." The State's motion was accompanied by a list of questions the prosecutor intended to ask Dr. Ferraro. Haskie objected to Dr. Ferraro's proposed testimony, arguing it would not assist the jury and that it would constitute improper profile evidence and vouching. Following a hearing, the trial court limited Dr. Ferraro's testimony to the list of questions.

         ¶4 At trial, the State presented recorded phone calls Haskie made from jail, including several to P.J. before she recanted. In these conversations, Haskie dictated to P.J. an exculpatory story for her to tell police, apologized to her, and promised to marry her when he was released. During one call, P.J. responded, "[W]ell maybe you shouldn't have tried to kill me. . . . You know exactly what you did." At trial, however, P.J. testified that she did not remember who had beaten her because she had been drinking, and that although she initially blamed Haskie for her injuries because she was jealous, she had in fact cheated on him.

         ¶5 At trial, Dr. Ferraro testified that she was a "cold" or "blind" expert, meaning she had not reviewed any case-specific evidence and was not going to testify about any of the events in the case. The prosecutor asked her a series of questions regarding characteristics of domestic violence victims to help the jury understand behaviors that might otherwise seem counterintuitive to jurors unfamiliar with domestic violence. When asked, "[I]s it unusual for someone who has been hurt by an intimate partner to return to that relationship?" Dr. Ferraro responded, "It's not unusual. It is very common." She continued, "There are many reasons [why, ] and they vary by the individual, of course, and the type of relationship." Dr. Ferraro explained that some victims of domestic violence return to their abusers out of fear, retaliation, or threats, while others do not leave their abusers because of pressure from extended family or the victim's own shame. Dr. Ferraro further testified that chemical dependency and alcohol abuse complicate the decision to leave an abusive relationship.

         ¶6 The prosecutor then asked, "[D]o victims ever tend to blame themselves for what happened?" ...

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