Virginia Court Allows SANE Testimony, But Limits Their Expertise

The Virginia Supreme Court recently ordered a retrial for a convicted rapist in a decision that affirmed that Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are qualified to testify in such cases, but at the same time limited the topics that such nurses can testify about.

The case before the court involved Eduardo Velazquez who was accused of raping a 15-year-old girl. The Girl went to a hospital where she was examined by a SANE nurse. At the Velaquez’s trial the nurse testified that the girl’s injuries were “consistent with non-consensual intercourse.”

Velaquez appealed his conviction arguing that the SANE nurse should not have been allowed to testify because she was not a licensed physician. The Virginia Supreme Court rejected that argument, but agreed with Velaquez’s claim that the nurse should not have been allowed to testify that the injuries were the result of a sexual assault which, after all, is what the jury is supposed to be deciding.

Velaquez’s lawyer, James G. Connell III told The Washington Post, “FOr them to say that what they observe was caused by sex without consent has an enormous impact on the jury. I’m glad the court has reeled in SANE nurses and let them testify on the facts only. It puts the power back in the hands of the jury.”


Nurses’ testimony limited in rape cases. Carol Morello, The Washington Post, January 13, 2002.

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