State v. McAlister, 2016 MT 14 (Jan. 19, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)
Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by denying McAlister’s motions to dismiss, and (2) whether McAlister’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to call any expert witnesses.
Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) this issue is more properly brought in a petition for postconviction relief.
Facts: McAlister was charged with sexual intercourse without consent after four-year-old AH told her grandmother stories that suggested possible sexual abuse. At trial, AH testified. The state called several experts, and McAlister called none.
Procedural Posture & Holding: McAlister moved to dismiss for insufficient evidence after the state rested, and again after the defense rested. The district court denied both motions. The jury returned a guilty verdict. McAlister appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.
Reasoning: (1) McAlister notes many contradictions and inconsistencies between A.H.’s statements to police and her later testimony at trial, including A.H.’s occasional denials that she had ever engaged in sex or even knew what sex was. He also argues that the state never offered any physical evidence that AH had been sexually abused. While her statements were inconsistent at times, a rational jury could have concluded that given her age, the substance of her statements was truthful.
(2) Because the basis for McAlister’s ineffectiveness claim is not clear form the record, it is more properly brought in a petition for postconviction relief, not on direct appeal.