A conviction for criminal sexual conduct or a sex crime could lead to a lengthy prison term, GPS monitoring, sex offender registries, residency and occupational restrictions, loss of children’s custody — the list of direct and collateral consequences of a sex offense conviction grows more alarming every day.
False allegations of sexual misconduct can come from a wide variety of sources: A contentious divorce proceeding, parental alienation leading to distortion of memory and/or creation of a false memory, incompetent forensic interview by law enforcement and/or child protective services, battles over child custody or support, a vindictive former spouse or significant other, or allegations resulting from false memories.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
The Constitution of the United States guarantees that all criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Allegations of sexual abuse are often treated differently. Because claims of sexual abuse, especially against a child, are so stigmatized and condemnable, oftentimes defendants find themselves perceived as guilty until proven innocent. After all, why would a partner or child make the allegations if they are not true? How else would a child know such graphic sexual details? Why would children say such horrible things? Children don’t “lie”. Or do they?
To successfully win against a sex crime allegation, defense lawyers need to educate the jury about following issues:
- Why would little kids say the defendant sexually abused them if nothing happened?
- How could a child lie about something as serious as digital penetration?
- What does research say about children’s normative sexual behavior?
- Do children lie about these things? Why?
- What about medical evidence? What about that “tear” or “perforation” of hymen? Anal tear?
- What does medical science tell us about these “signs”?
- What does science say about children making allegations of sexual abuse?
- Does “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome” have scientific underpinnings and support? Or, is it junk science?
- Was the complaining witness interviewed? Was the interview as per the proper forensic protocols? Was it suggestive?
Is the child witness’s/complaining witness’s memory “tainted”? What does that mean? The affect — tears, anguish, pain, hysteria — seems so real? Issues of memory taint are crucial in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct with children and a successful raising of the taint defense could result in outright dismissal of criminal charges! Read more: Ashish Joshi, Taint Hearing: Scientific And Legal Underpinnings, The Champion, November 2010.
Tonya Craft: A Successful Defense Using A Masterful Integration Of Science And Law
In 2008, Tonya Craft, a pretty 37-year-old single mother working as a kindergarten teacher in Georgia, was arrested and indicted for a 22-count indictment. The prosecutors were baying for her blood: asking for a sentence of 480 years. After two years of preparation and a superb defense put forward by our team encompassing areas of normal child sexuality, rumor formation, parental influences on children’s memory, hymen morphology in abused and nonabused girls, delayed disclosure, suggestibility coupled with aggressive cross examination of state’s experts, resulted in a landmark not guilty verdict on all of 22 counts. Read more: Demosthenes Lorandos, Saving Tonya Craft: An Integration of Science and Law – 35 Champion, January/February 2011.
Criminal defendants accused of sex crimes — especially child sexual abuse — are at incredible risk of being falsely convicted. The state does not need “hard” evidence — no forensic evidence, no medical evidence, no DNA is needed to secure a conviction. All it takes is a false allegation to begin the nightmare and from there on, it’s a circus with: Child Protective Services personnel, forensic interviewers, school teachers, police officers, prosecutors, experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and physicians. The fight is intensive and it’s a battle every inch of way!
Our team approaches sexual misconduct cases with this reality in mind — it is never enough to simply try and undermine the prosecutor’s case. It’s never a defense that the kid doesn’t have her story straight. It’s never a defense that the medical exam doesn’t prove anything. It’s never a defense that the state does not have DNA evidence, and even if they do, presence of DNA does not equal a guilty verdict. Read more: Demosthenes Lorandos and others, If DNA, Then Guilty: Strategies for Overcoming Juror Assumptions About DNA Evidence in Criminal Trials, The Champion, Jan/Feb 2015.
Child Pornography And Internet Stings
On some occasions, law enforcement officials are so eager to catch alleged sex offenders in internet stings that they go overboard and entrap naïve, unsuspecting adults. Enforcement officials enter online chat rooms pretending to be young boys or girls hungry for sex. They strike up online conversations with adults and manipulate them into soliciting an unlawful sexual act or exchanging photographs. We all know what happens next: the person charged with sex crimes and facing years in prison. And these are just the legal consequences, not the social or professional consequences of a sex charge such as sexual abuse or child pornography.
Sex crime cases often turn on expert witness testimony. Our team’s approach to sex crime defense is derived from an evidence-based litigation practice. Our team is nationally noted for their effectiveness in educating judges and prosecuting attorneys on the psychology behind child pornography cases. Our scientific approach to sex crime defense has been key to debunking sham witness testimony and obtaining favorable results for our clients. It doesn’t hurt that our lawyers also wrote the book, literally, on how to cross-examine expert witnesses.
Contact us at Joshi for more information on how we can help fight back against the sex crime charge you face.