Brazos County DA to train forensic nurses on courtroom testimony

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BRAZOS COUNTY, Tex. (KBTX) - When a sexual assault is committed, forensic nurses are trained to gather evidence from the victim's body. Prosecutors say that evidence can make or break a criminal case.

This summer the Brazos County District Attorney's Office will partner with Texas A&M's College of Nursing to offer interprofessional training for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners or Forensic Nurses.

The training will focus on how forensic nurses across Texas handle courtroom testimony.

"We're more specially trained to identify things that a nurse working in the ER or ICU wouldn't know to identify," said Evonne Garcia, a Forensic Nurse with the College of Nursing.

Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons says more than 60% of the violent crimes cases tried in his office stem from domestic violence and sexual assault.

"The forensic nurse allows the jury to go inside the hospital room to be able to talk about what some of the fears are for the victims," said Parsons. "What are the procedures and what are the types of things they are doing to protect collect and preserve evidence."

Garcia says historically there's a stigma associated with forensic nurses testifying before a judge and jury.

"If you end up in court, it's not for a good reason.It usually means you did something wrong or you are being sued," said Garcia. "So we're trained in nursing school that you don't want to go to court."

But Parsons says that's not the case. In the two-day course, the nurses will learn about courtroom demeanor and what it's like to be cross-examined.

"It's not about a technical way they are supposed to word something but more about making sure they are telling the truth," said Parsons. "When you are actually on the stand, it's a lot more nerve-racking than many people would ever realize."

Under a federal grant, the college will train 80 Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners over the next three years.