At the trial of Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield on charges of sexually assaulting a disabled man, a psychologist said on Thursday the alleged victim could not consent to sexual activity.DJ's competence---whether he could then meaningfully consent to anything---is the crux of the case.
Dr. Paul Fulford said he reached that conclusion after a 2011 evaluation in which the man, known as D.J., did not communicate with him. Fulford conducted the examination at the request of Essex County prosecutors.
"My final opinion, essentially the bottom line, was that he was not competent to give consent to sexual activity," Fulford testified. "It's a question of does he have the understanding to consent to it."
Stubblefield contends he is competent to consent and facilitated communication, which supports his body as he selects letters on a screen, proves that. This view implies that DJ's body prevents his communication, not a failure of his mind, a point the defense brought up on cross.
The judge, finding (with ample justification) that facilitated communication is not recognized science, has barred the defense from offering expert testimony about it.
Fulford initially evaluated D.J. in 2001 as part of the process in which the man's mother and brother were seeking to become his legal guardians.
At that time, Fulford said he determined D.J. was in need of a guardianship after finding he had difficulty with understanding the questions Fulford asked him. Fulford said he found D.J. was intellectually deficient.
After prosecutors in 2011 asked Fulford to evaluate D.J.'s ability to consent, Fulford said the man provided "almost no significant responses" during the examination.
"There were sounds, but not interpretable by me," said Fulford, adding that "there was no communicating or attempt to communicate."
But on cross-examination, Stubblefield's attorney, James Patton, questioned Fulford about whether he had conducted any tests during the 2011 evaluation. Fulford said he attempted to test D.J., but "no tests were able to be performed."
"I asked him questions," Fulford said. "I got no responses."
During a discussion on Fulford's 2001 evaluation, Patton also questioned if he tested whether D.J.'s inability to answer questions was the result of physical or mental problems.
But Fulford said his role in that evaluation was to assess D.J.'s mental condition, not his physical condition.
"I have no right by law to make a conclusion in a report that goes to the state that the problem is really physical," Fulford said.
Since Fulford was unable in that evaluation to conclude D.J.'s problem was a physical one, Patton questioned whether Fulford "just selected the other option and concluded it was mental."