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Questions raised about DA forensic interviewer’s credentials

Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 21:41:11-04

Questions have been raised about a San Luis Obispo County District Attorney staffer’s credentials.

Defense attorneys around San Luis Obispo County have been receiving notices from the DA’s office explaining that the county’s forensic interviewer does not have an undergraduate degree.

The DA’s office says the staff member wrote on her resume and previously testified in court that she did have a degree from Cal Poly.

The notice was sent to defense attorneys or defendants who may have had Forensic Interviewer Tracy Nix as a witness, whether she testified or not.

Nix interviews children to help determine if the child has been abused.

District Attorney Dan Dow says a degree was never a requirement of Nix’s job.

“She, because of her expertise and prior experience, was selected. Not because of a degree or any claim that she had a degree, but because of her work experience and because of the specific training she had to conduct child forensic interviews,” Dow said.

Defense attorneys and defendants have the option to raise the issue to an appellate court, but Dow believes a judge would dismiss any appeals.

“Our belief is that it’s minor and it’s collateral. It’s very unlikely to harm any findings that were made either by a jury or court in any prior cases,” Dow said.

Defense Attorney Scott Taylor says Nix was a witness in two of his cases. He filed a motion earlier this year, asking for an investigation into her credentials, which was denied.

Pointing to interview transcripts, he alleges her practices aren’t appropriate.

"It’s full of leaded questions and techniques that are known to cause a false accusation,” Taylor said. “Every forensic psychologist I show it to says there are serious problems here.”

Taylor now wants to see further investigation into Nix’s forensic interview training.

"I think what’s needed here is a serious peer review so we can have other experts come in, watch what she’s doing and fix the problem,” Taylor said.

Dow says Nix received specialized training for her role as an interview specialist in Tuolumne County. She has nearly 20 years of experience working in San Luis Obispo County.

Ultimately, it’ll be up to a judge to decide whether or not the information about Nix’s lack of a degree calls for a re-trial in any cases.