Witness issues discussed in hot car death

 


PORTALES — How far can a defense of “I forgot,” go in the case of daycare workers accused of leaving two young children in a hot car?

That was one of the questions at hand during a court hearing Tuesday afternoon in Portales, as mother-daughter duo Mary and Sandi Taylor advance toward trial early this fall on charges of reckless abuse of a child. One young girl died and another was seriously injured after being left for 90 minutes in a car outside the Portales home daycare in July, according to court records.

The state, represented by District Attorney Andrea Reeb, moved to compel defense attorney Tye Harmon to share detailed reports from David Diamond, a Florida neuropsychologist proposed as an expert witness on the topic of “forgotten child syndrome.”

“This is not a mental disorder,” the Taylors’ attorney said of the syndrome, but instead about “how a normal functioning person can lose awareness” due to factors like stress or lack of sleep.

Diamond previously interviewed the Taylors over a video call but did not take any notes on the meeting, Harmon said. However, Diamond could still “formulate an opinion” as to factors that might have influenced the caregivers’ actions this past summer.


Reeb said in court that Harmon was playing a “discovery game” in an effort to have an “upper hand” for what may be a decisive element of the trial to come.

“That was strictly strategic on the defense part to do that,” she said of the interview without notes. “This is hiding the ball in the sense that I can’t come in here fully prepared for what this expert is going to say.”

Harmon said the interview had “nothing to do with a failure to disclose” and that Reeb was welcome to interview Diamond again and ask him for his opinion on how specific factors influencing the “forgotten child” phenomenon might have affected the Taylors.

Judge Donna Mowrer ruled Harmon would be required to supply Reeb with a complete list of such factors by Friday, allowing Reeb time to prepare for another interview with Diamond in advance of a motion hearing June 19.

That hearing next month “could be a decision-making motion for this case,” Reeb said, as it will determine if and to what extent Diamond can testify as an expert witness. She said the state will disclose its own expert witness before that hearing.

Harmon told The News he was pleased with Tuesday’s hearing and confident Diamond would meet the requirements to qualify for testimony.

“I would have liked a detailed report on what the defendants said to the person who was examining them, but I respect the court’s decision. If that’s the route we’re going to take I will have to get it through an interview (with Diamond),” Reeb told The News. “Still, the case stands a lot factually on whether (the Taylors) were more than merely negligent, or if there was reckless disregard, and that’s a factual question.”


More than two dozen attended the short hearing Tuesday on the state’s side of the courtroom.

The Taylors, who did not attend the hearing, are scheduled for a five-day trial starting Sept. 24.

 

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