11.05.2011

Futuristic Criminal Investigations-Part XIV

Sexually Abused child.Image via Wikipedia

Specializing In Forensic Child Sexual Abuse Investigations

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

The future of how to protect children who are sexually abused and bullied by individuals they know needs futuristic sophisticated strategies. Too often the community relies upon the educational system and those who work in the criminal justice system to take care of the problem. This attitude does not help child sexual abuse victims from being sexually abused or bullied.

Many avenues of forensic investigations have extended the life of those child sexual abuse allegations, which involve for the majority of the time friends, peers, relatives and other adults, which are known to the alleged child victim. Recently, I was involved in a child sexual abuse case where the prosecutor, without discussing the ins and outs of the criminal charges, allowed the sexual offender to plead to a reduced charge. The charges went from a Class A Felony down to a Fourth Degree Assault.

I interviewed the prosecutor about why she would take a solid case and reduce it from a life in prison charge to a slap on the hand. In this case the sexual offender was given two years’ probation with no jail time and, most disappointing, no sexual offender registration. The prosecutor stated the plea offer had several considerations to it. First, there was no physical or medical evidence. Two, it would have been a she-said-he-said. Third, they probably wouldn’t believe her; although the prosecutor stated she believed her.  Fourth, the alleged child victim was not given the legal options that the State of Washington laws state they are to receive. The prosecutor stated she told her about the plea bargain, but the child probably didn’t understand what she was communicating.

The multiple reasons the prosecutor told me of why she agreed to the plea bargain needs to be reviewed and evaluated. These specific areas that the prosecutor raises are generally the reasons a defense attorney brings forth during the plea bargaining with a prosecutor in why they should dismiss the charges against their client.

The statement that there was no physical or medical evidence found needs to be thoroughly addressed. Studies have demonstrated that, “This type of crime must usually be proven without corroboration or physical evidence.” Further, in May of 2000, Dr. Amy Arszman Daso and Robert Shaprio conducted a study reference of children’s testimony versus the findings of medical and physical evidence.  They stated the following:

A study conducted at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati indicates that child sexual abuse allegations should be taken seriously and found children's testimony more reliable than physical exams in cases of sexual abuse. The researchers reviewed the records of 31 pedophiles who confessed between 1994 and 1999. The 31 perpetrators confessed to a total of 101 acts of sexual abuse, some of which they committed multiple times. The perpetrators abused 47 children. The 45 old enough to provide a history described 111 acts of sexual abuse. "Physical exams are an unreliable indicator of sexual abuse," says Dr. Shapiro. "We're not saying that children never make things up, but the responsible reaction is to listen carefully to allegations of abuse so that abused children will be identified and false allegations recognized."

Two, the prosecutor said the case would come down to she-said-he-said. In child sexual abuse cases, for the majority of the cases, which reach the courtroom, the circumstances come down to she-said-he-said. As stated above, generally there is no physical or medical evidence. The role of the prosecutor is to find direct testimony (not hearsay) which enhances the credibility of the alleged child victim. In this case the prosecutor and law enforcement took no steps to strengthen their case.

Three, the puzzling comment by the prosecutor that they (the jury) would probably not believe her, but she did, demonstrated the incompetence and unintelligence of the prosecutor. It is the specific role and job of the assigned prosecutor to make the alleged child victim appealable to the judge and jury. If the prosecutor has done more than one case she will take great strides in the proper preparation of her case.
Four, according to the law, the victim’s advocate and/or prosecutor assigned to the criminal case has an absolute responsibility to clearly communicate what legal options she/he has and what legal options are being offered to the sexual offender and the defense attorney to the prosecutor. Stating that the alleged child victim didn’t understand continued to demonstrate through-out my interview with her, just how clumsy she handled the criminal case.
An author, Richard Dean Prudenti (August 29, 2009), from The Morning News in Northwest Arkansas wrote the following:
Prosecutors work closely with law enforcement agencies and child advocacy groups to gather enough evidence to prove sexual abuse crimes. In most cases they offer a compromise: a prison term less than the maximum in exchange for a defendant’s guilty plea. “Are we getting justice? That’s the bottom line. Last year, we got the results we wanted without having a lot of trials,” said Van Stone, Benton County prosecuting attorney.
In reviewing the facts of the case I presented for your review and understanding did the alleged child victim feel that “she received justice?” There is a preponderance of evidence which demonstrated in this criminal case that if you don’t speak loudly, especially for yourself, the criminal justice system may forget who you are and find all the excuses to justify their plea offer to a man who in two years will be free to sexually offend another young female; if not sooner. There is no guarantee that during probation he will not continue with his sexual inappropriate behavior.
The futuristic approach in this case would have found the victim advocate and prosecutor notifying the alleged child victim of court dates, hearings and eventually the potential plea offer. There needs to be a criminal justice system which examines the problems and the personnel they hire to follow the laws of the city, county, state and federal governments. So when the system doesn’t work, those involved find methods and techniques to utilize so in the future a child of sexual abuse won’t be victimized twice.
Tomorrow, the problems law enforcement faces on a daily basis demonstrates the strides that need to be taken in the future. Finding individuals who can think outside the box need to be the norm. So in our exploration to create the future for those who work in the law enforcement community, tomorrow will be another day where we move closer to learning how to find the truth and what to do with it. Hopefully, the ultimate goal in the future will be to hold those accountable and responsible who commit crimes against children. In the case above the prosecutor failed not only the child victim, but the community.
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