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Traffanstead v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

December 31, 2019

Christopher Jason Traffanstead, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County. John F. Simon, Jr., Judge.

          Michael Ufferman of Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Virginia Chester Harris, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Winokur, J.

         Christopher Jason Traffanstead appeals his judgment and sentence, arguing that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by prohibiting defense counsel from relying on the information contained in the victim's comprehensive assessments, which denied him a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. We agree and reverse.

         I.

         Traffanstead was charged with two counts of sexual battery by a person in a position of familial or custodial authority and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation of child over the age of twelve, but under the age of sixteen. The victim was K.T., Traffanstead's adopted son.

         Prior to trial, defense counsel sent the State two comprehensive psychological assessments of K.T. dated before any of the abuse charged to Traffanstead occurred. Traffanstead obtained the reports legally as K.T.'s guardian during the adoption process. The assessments included interviews with K.T. and his prior foster family, and observations of mental health professionals. Defense counsel claimed that there were troubling incidents and findings in the assessments bearing on K.T.'s bias, credibility, and state of mind. In pertinent part, K.T.'s assessments made a referral diagnosis for a mood disorder, attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder (ADHD), and reactive attachment disorder (RAD).[1]

         Upon receiving the assessments, the State filed a motion for protective order that would prohibit Traffanstead "from presenting any evidence or testimony which would violate the psychotherapist-patient privilege." After hearing, the trial court granted the State's motion, but allowed Traffanstead "to file [an] appropriate motion for the Court to review the documents in camera."

         Traffanstead then filed a "Motion to Release Clinical Records" requesting that the trial court release K.T.'s assessments so that his defense could use them to prepare for trial and for cross-examination of K.T. The motion also stated that defense counsel wanted the assessments reviewed by an expert who could then testify at trial as to whether K.T. displayed any symptoms or indicators relating to RAD. The trial court denied Traffanstead's motion, finding that K.T.'s assessments were "covered by the psychotherapist-patient privilege" prohibiting Traffanstead "from questioning [K.T.] regarding any matters that are protected by the psychotherapist-patient privilege . . . ."

         After reviewing the assessments in camera, the trial court stated that it was "going to stand by [its] ruling," denying Traffanstead the ability to use K.T.'s assessments at trial. The trial court, however, issued an order finding that some of the information "may be relevant to the [case]."

         At trial, the State's case primarily relied on K.T.'s testimony that Traffanstead abused him on multiple occasions. K.T., however, admitted that his first specific allegation of abuse was not true. The State also presented forensic evidence that two items linked to Traffanstead's abuse contained a possible DNA match to K.T. Testimony was also elicited that crime scene technicians did not change gloves after each item of evidence was recovered from ...


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