12.19.2011

The Many Roles Of The Private Investigator In Investigating Child Sexual Abuse Allegations - Part XVII



By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

In another shocking move by the attorneys who represent former Penn State player and coach who has been accused of allegedly molesting 10 young athletic boys waived his right to a preliminary hearing. In waiving this preliminary hearing, Sandusky will now head directly to trial. Sandusky is alleged that the 10 alleged victims colluded against him for financial reasons.

Jerry Sandusky.pngA preliminary hearing is a legal process where the prosecutor has the opportunity to present to a judge that they possess enough evidence to justify further criminal proceedings against the accused. The hearing is generally held in open court and in front of a judge.
Defense Attorney.jpgAfter the prosecutor has presented their evidence, the defense has the opportunity to respond to the alleged evidence the prosecutor alleged they have and will be heard in trial.  If the judge decides that there is a “prima facie case” the case is generally “bound over” to the grand jury or the trial court for further proceedings. Sometimes the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence therefore the evidence is diminished by the defense and the judge agrees and the charges are dismissed.

In the Sandusky matter with 10 alleged victims it would not have benefited Sandusky’s to put on his case in the preliminary hearing phase. In fact, the move surprised prosecutors because the defense generally wants to evaluate each witness the prosecutor puts on the witness stand. Sometimes, the prosecutor doesn’t put the alleged victim(s) on the witness stand because there is substantial evidence to direct the case to a trial. However, in the Sandusky matter, his attorneys know that once the ‘cat is out of the bag’ on how they will defend the alleged child sexual assaults against Sandusky, the prosecutor could either prepare for it and/or assist the alleged victims prepare for their testimony.

Investigator in Courtroom.jpgSometimes a private investigator is hired to attend the preliminary hearing to ascertain what evidence they have against the alleged sexual offender, who may be their client. An expert in the child abuse industry may be the better suited professional for such an analysis, but a competent and intelligent investigator can be as effective if they have the training, education and experience in the evidence available to both sides.
If a private investigator wants to become valuable in their community than whenever they have the time they should expend that time in a courtroom watching as many child sexual abuse cases as they can. The purpose is to observe how the prosecution structures their case; puts on evidence; questions their witnesses; and most importantly interviews the alleged child victim(s).

There is no better training for the investigator than watching a competent and experienced prosecutor and defense attorney interview the alleged child victim. The investigator will be able to ascertain how a child responds to the most basic questions to the most complex questions. Sometimes the prosecutor will have a child victim who doesn’t want to cooperate and/or is too afraid to answer the questions. Their actions may come about for many different reasons e.g. the child recognizes that the alleged sexual offender is in the courtroom; they are afraid to tell the judge or jury what happened to them; or they are just uncomfortable in answering questions in front of so many people.

Child Abuse Victim.jpg
The investigator will have the opportunity to learn how the prosecutor presents their version of the ‘motive’ to the allegations and how the motive was significant in having the child disclose that they were being sexually assaulted. The defense will have the judge, jury examine the ‘motive’, and they will explain how the ‘motive’ played a major part of the false allegations, which are being made against the alleged sexual offender.
The lack of evidence is something the prosecutor has to deal 
with in most of the child sexual assault cases they present to a judge and jury. Sometimes, but not very often, the crime scene technicians and/or law enforcement officials will locate semen, hairs, trace, physical and biological evidence and other types of evidence to support the child sexual assault allegations. The investigator will learn that evidence is non-existent and the prosecutor will tell the judge and jury that this is what happens in most criminal child sexual assault cases and the defense will tell the judge and jury that the evidence doesn’t exists because the crime which the prosecution has alleged, did not happen. If the case was true than the evidence would exist.

Female On Witness Stand.jpgAt the end of the day the child sexual assault crime case will come down to a he said she said and the weight of the evidence in the trial will come down to who the jury believed. Decades ago, the prosecutor could argue that children just don’t have the sex knowledge they possess if they hadn’t been sexually abused. No longer can the prosecutor use this argument, because children four years and up have access to an Internet which sells sex indirectly and directly from the moment they access it.

The investigator can learn so much by being a part of the judicial process. The more child sexual assault cases they have the opportunity to observe the more competent they will become. Being clumsy and stumbling through an investigation has no place in investigating a child sexual assault.

Tomorrow, the investigator has the opportunity to understand why the mind works the way it does. In order to interview a variety of witnesses, the investigator needs to understand how the mind works and why certain questions produce so much information and other parts of the mind just don’t help them. Over time the investigator will learn how the mind functions and how they can produce positive and successful witness and child victim interviews.

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