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Thursday, August 28, 2008

[CA] In Chief Gundersen trial, police dv expert Diane Wetendorf can't address police dv

...Wetendorf will not be allowed to bring in her expertise in a niche field of domestic violence she has been researching for the past 10 years — that of domestic violence at the hands of a law enforcement official. Humboldt County Superior Court Judge W. Bruce Watson said he would not allow questions about alleged victims of domestic violence making false allegations... Darcie Seal, the alleged victim of spousal rape, has, since Gundersen’s arrest, changed her story several times...

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Domestic violence expert to testify
The Eureka Reporter, CA
By JOHN C. OSBORN
Published: Aug 27 2008, 11:01 PM

Testimony by an expert in police-perpetrated domestic violence will be allowed in David Gundersen’s trial, the court ruled.

Diane Wetendorf, a longtime victim’s rights advocate versed in domestic violence, will be able to tell the jury about her opinions of common characteristics associated with victims of domestic violence.

In the narrow ruling, Wetendorf will only be allowed to answer questions about those characteristics, why victims recant previous statements and why they stay with an abuser.

Wetendorf will not be allowed to bring in her expertise in a niche field of domestic violence she has been researching for the past 10 years — that of domestic violence at the hands of a law enforcement official.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge W. Bruce Watson said he would not allow questions about alleged victims of domestic violence making false allegations, a key point that Gundersen’s attorney Russell Clanton wanted to address as well.

“There has to be strict limitations,” he said, adding that an expert is not there to weigh on the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

The hearing turned heated at times as Clanton tried several times to question Wetendorf about that point and on biases that she, as an advocate, would be bringing into the courtroom.

“I think if an expert is going to assist a jury,” Clanton said, “it should be giving information from an origin that is not biased.”

Watson said that experts don’t have to be unbiased when on the stand.

The expert, who will be costing taxpayers $300 an hour while in court and a $100 an hour while reviewing documents, will help give the jury more insight into domestic violence.

Wetendorf testified that perpetrators of domestic violence exploit religion, children and, in the case of police officers, training and legal knowledge to make the victim comply.

“Domestic violence (is) a pattern of behaviors that one partner in a relationship uses against another partner,” she testified. “People have a hard time believing that a police officer can be a victim of domestic violence.”

When a police officer is the abuser, it makes it even more difficult for victims to speak out, as they have access to all the traditional channels of relief, such as shelters and law enforcement response, she said.

Darcie Seal, the alleged victim of spousal rape, has, since Gundersen’s arrest, changed her story several times, testifying during the trial that the allegations she made to investigators prior to his arrest were now false.

The prosecution will try and show that Seal’s recanting of previous statements are symptomatic with trauma that results from domestic abuse, while she alleges that those statements were a result of coercion by law enforcement officials.

Wetendorf is expected to testify today.

John C. Osborn can be reached at josborn@eurekareporter.com, or at 707-269-7445. [Link]
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety recant recanted california state politics brass]

1 comment:

  1. Domestic violence expert witness to testify
    Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
    Article Launched: 08/28/2008 01:16:26 AM PDT

    Domestic violence expert witness Diane Wetendorf will take the stand in the rape trial of former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen, a judge ruled Wednesday.

    With the jury excused for the day, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson heard arguments from the prosecution and the defense about allowing Wetendorf to testify during a sometimes contentious hearing.

    After nearly three hours, Watson said he would allow Wetendorf to testify in general terms about the symptoms of domestic abuse to aid the jury in determining the reliability of the testimony of Gundersen's wife, Darcie Seal.

    While it is the policy of the Times-Standard not to identify alleged sexual assault victims, Seal has requested the paper and the court use her name.

    Gundersen faces two dozen charges of raping Seal while she was under the influence of an intoxicant, as well as charges of violating a court order, attempting to dissuade the victim of a crime and illegally possessing a submachine gun and a pistol with an attached silencer.

    He has pleaded guilty to all counts, and remains held in the Humboldt County jail on $1.25 million bail.

    Seal made allegations that her husband had raped her hundreds of times over the course of several years during a Feb. 8 interview with law enforcement investigators. Seal testified at Gundersen's preliminary hearing that her statements were true, but has since changed her story.

    Taking the stand during Gundersen's trial, Seal testified the allegations she made during the Feb. 8 interview were false, and that attorneys told her before the preliminary hearing that she could not tell the truth and had to testify in line with her previous statements to investigators.

    Attorneys who represented Seal testified Tuesday that they never told her to lie on the stand, and that their primary instructions were to testify honestly.

    District Attorney Paul Gallegos filed a motion with the court seeking to admit the testimony of Wetendorf, who has spent years working with victims of domestic violence, the last 10 of which she has spent specifically focusing on domestic violence perpetrated by or against members of law enforcement.

    Gallegos said his intention is to have Wetendorf testify about the characteristics of women in abusive relationships in order to help explain Seal's behavior to the jury.

    Gundersen's attorney Russell Clanton countered that Wetendorf is a self-proclaimed victims' advocate, and is consequently biased and likely to believe Seal's allegations simply because she is an alleged victim.

    Watson said Wetendorf would not take the stand to offer an opinion on whether Seal was telling the truth.

    ”An expert doesn't opine as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant or as to whether the victim is telling the truth,” Watson said. “Those are the province of the jury.”

    Watson ruled he would allow Wetendorf to testify about whether Seal's actions seem to fit the characteristics of a domestic violence victim, to dispel widely held misconceptions about victims of domestic abuse and to explain why some victims recant their stories.

    Wetendorf is expected to take the stand this morning before the jury as the trial continues into its eighth day.


    Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com

    http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_10323789

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