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SD man convicted of child rape gets new trial

By Chet Brokaw

PIERRE — The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Valley Springs man convicted of raping a 6-year-old girl must get a new trial.

The high court ruled unanimously that Kevin Buchholtz, 58, is entitled to a new trial because improper testimony was allowed in his first trial last year.

The court’s justices said a nurse was allowed to give testimony that improperly bolstered the girl’s credibility.

A jury in August 2012 convicted Buchholtz of two counts of first-degree rape, one count of sexual contact with a child and one count of indecent exposure. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The Supreme Court said a nurse who examined the girl found no physical evidence of sexual abuse.

But based on what the girl said she saw, felt and heard, the nurse testified that her “medical diagnosis is child sexual abuse.”

The high court said most courts across the nation restrict such testimony.

In a child sexual abuse case, an expert can tell a jury about the characteristics of abused children and describe the characteristics exhibited by the child involved in the case, the Supreme Court said.

An expert can give an opinion about whether medical evidence is consistent with a victim’s allegations, but cannot express an opinion that sexual abuse has actually occurred based solely on a victim’s statement, the justices said.