The firing and discrediting of a Hennepin County, Minnesota nurse who examined sexual assault victims and was a prosecution expert witness has prompted the independent review of all of the criminal cases in which she was involved.
Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Nurse Jarvis
Kristi J. Jarvis was a Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) nurse. Jarvis was hired by HCMC in 2014. The following year, she was promoted to “program coordinator” for the Hennepin Assault Response Team (HART), which was then known as Sexual Assault Resource Service, or, SARS.The HART organization is staffed 24 hours a day and investigates allegations of sexual assault, human trafficking and sexual exploitation involving adults and children.
Jarvis served as the forensic program coordinator from late 2017 until her firing. During her tenure at HCMC and HART, Jarvis examined sexual assault victims and was listed as an expert witness for the prosecution.
Jarvis’ Firing for Lying About Educational Background
On May 8, 2019, Jarvis was fired for falsely reporting in documents that she had a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Her personnel file obtained by the Minnesota Star Tribune also showed that Jarvis “ inappropriately took $4,050 in personal checks from participants who attended a class she taught, was disciplined in 2017 for altering official HCMC documents and contributed to a work environment rife with dysfunction.”
According to her termination letter, Jarvis was fired for claiming on official documents related to the International Association of Forensic Nursing’s approval process for sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) classes that she had a bachelor’s of science in nursing.
Hennepin Healthcare, the umbrella organization for HCMC, contended that Jarvis had the credentials to perform her job duties. It said in a written statement, “The reason for termination was ‘failure to comply with Hennepin Health System’s Code of Conduct.”
HCMC documents reveal that Jarvis self-reported conducting more than 400 forensic exams in her career and wrote that she has provided “expert witness consultation and testimony for numerous county attorney’s offices” and defense attorneys.
Jarvis’ attorney, Christa Groshek, said in a written statement, “Ms. Jarvis denies any allegations that she misrepresented her title or credentials. … A subordinate in her office misstated her title.”
Jarvis was first licensed as a nurse in Minnesota in 2006, and is actively licensed with an expiration date of February 2020, according to the Minnesota Board of Nursing. A bachelor’s degree in nursing is not required for licensure as a nurse.
Jarvis is a registered nurse, has a bachelor’s of science in criminology and criminal justice, a master’s certificate in forensic nursing and is certified as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), Groshek said. The absence of a nursing degree, however, might cause juries to question an expert’s qualifications to render opinions as a nurse examiner.
Jarvis worked on cases in Hennepin and Ramsey counties while at HCMC. Public defenders in Hennepin and Ramsey counties could not immediately say how many of their past or pending cases involve Jarvis as an examiner or witness.
“We’ll find out which cases she’s been pivotally involved in and see what can be done,” said Jim Fleming, chief Ramsey County public defender. “This certainly is going to perk interest.”
Fleming stated that Jarvis’ involvement in a case wouldn’t necessarily result in an automatic challenge, adding that many other variables have to be considered.
Chief Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty said, “Every case is unique. … We’re looking at each one individually to make sure our clients’ rights were protected.”