The Idaho Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a district court ruling ordering a new trial for Robert "Bob" D. Critchfield.
Critchfield, 37, was convicted by a jury in October 2010 of fondling two girls at his former home in Coeur d'Alene Place, but the convictions on two felony counts were later vacated.
The 1st District Court jury specifically found him guilty of lewd conduct with a child and sexual abuse, but later Judge Charles Hosack ordered a new trial and the Kootenai County prosecutor's office appealed.
Hosack ruled that he made a mistake when he didn't allow psychologist Gregory Wilson, of Pullman, to take the stand, and the Appeals Court agreed.
Wilson was an expert witness for Critchfield's defense who should have been allowed to testify about the nature of the police interviews with the nine alleged victims in the case.
"The District Court also correctly determined that his error wasn't harmless," the Appeals Court judges wrote in their opinion. "This case turns almost exclusively on the accuracy and reliability of the victims' testimony."
Hosack's error deprived the jury of evidence offered to assist them in determining whether the victims' testimony was tainted by the suggestive interview techniques used by police, the judges wrote.
Critchfield's defense attorney, James Siebe, of Moscow, said Monday his client has maintained his innocence since first being arrested in June 2008.
Siebe said the police interviews of the girls - who ranged in age from 9 to 14 - were a critical part of the case, and police tainted the process.
Siebe said Wilson read through transcripts and listened to recordings of the police interviews in preparation for his planned testimony.
Wilson is an expert on interviewing sexual abuse victims, and works for law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors in north central Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Wilson planned to testify that police should have asked open-ended questions to establish a narrative.
He also intended to criticize police interviewers for suggesting or making statements that Critchfield touched the girls in specific ways or committed a particular act, and then asking whether that had occurred.
The police also shared with some alleged victims what other alleged victims had told them.
"According to Dr. Wilson, the interview techniques employed (by police) were improperly suggestive and often called for a victim to agree with the interviewing officer, an authority figure, or with other victims, thereby possibly altering or tainting the perception and memory of a particular victim," the Appeals Court judges wrote.
The alleged victims were at his home visiting his son and daughter, who were about the same age as the alleged victims. Critchfield was home during the day working on his college studies.
Critchfield was found innocent on four charges of sexual abuse at trial, and jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on three other charges.
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he hasn't decided yet whether to appeal Monday's ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court.