A police officer spent twenty-years in prison for allegedly sexually molesting his daughter and step-son. Ultimately, his conviction was overturned because it was revealed that detectives coerced and threatened the children to allege the abuse and that investigators withheld a videotaped interview of one of the children that exonerated the defendant. Further, one of the lead detectives in the case was having an affair with the defendant’s wife, and, after his conviction, moved in with her.
The defendant, now plaintiff, sued the prosecutors and investigating officers for malicious prosecution and other Constitutional violations.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Were there any red flags in the initial information provided to the prosecutor that would indicate evidence was fabricated or statements coerced?
- 2. Was the missing recording sufficient evidence of innocence?
Expert Witness Response
The expert is a former prosecutor of child sexual abuse cases who conferred on the original case. As a supervisor, the expert was responsible for approving the filing of charges. The expert’s experience includes training attorneys on prosecuting sexual abuse cases, and speaking at seminars.
At the time of the initial allegations, after reviewing investigative reports, it was my recommendation that criminal charges not be filed. The victim alleged that numerous individuals abused her, yet there was no corroboration, including medical evidence. My opinion was not that the defendant was innocent, only that the conviction would be difficult with such a young, inconsistent victim. Charges were filed despite my recommendations. Later, prosecutors established probable cause to file child rape charges. If the victim were able to testify consistent with the allegations she made to law enforcement, or if evidence of her statements consistent with sexual abuse by her father were admissible by means other than her testimony, it is my opinion that there would have been sufficient evidence for a jury to convict him. There was no reason for a reasonable prosecutor to believe that the information set forth in the reports of law enforcement known at that time were fabricated or the result of coercion by those conducting the interviews.
Present-day review of the additional investigative documents showed information that not only corroborated the allegations made by the daughter documented in the earlier reports but also contained new allegations that supported the prosecution for the rape of his stepson. Based upon this new information, probable cause existed to charge the father.
The defendant prosecutor heard nothing in his pre-trial interview with the victim that would show she had been coerced. The girl’s demeanor, which initially included a reluctance to talk about the events, was also typical of many young victims of sexual abuse who are reluctant to report allegations. There are many reasons children are reluctant to talk about abuse. They are often told by their abusers not to tell anyone about the abuse. Children are often embarrassed to talk about what happened. They frequently feel guilty or ashamed and believe they are somehow at fault or did something wrong. When the perpetrator is a person of authority in the child’s life, as clearly a parent would be, there are often great pressures upon the child not to disclose because the parent is often someone they love, despite the abuse.
Further, a doctor’s recorded interview with the victim was not exculpatory and was not evidence of innocence.