Charges: Aggravated Child Molestation
Defendant was under investigation for having his sister perform oral sex on him when he was approximately 18 and she was approximately 13. Defendant admitted to the conduct. Although the sister subsequently recanted, and a witness said she was present and saw nothing inappropriate, police still planned to arrest Defendant for Aggravated Child Molestation based on the sister’s initial outcries and Defendant’s confession. Defendant was facing at least 25 years in prison and a lifetime on the Sex Offender Registry.
When the police detective agreed to let defense counsel investigate the case and share their findings before making an arrest decision, defense counsel set out to answer the question, “If nothing happened, then why would Defendant say that it did – why would he confess to something he didn’t do?”
Defense counsel interviewed all the witness the kids talked to about the incident (teachers, parents, therapists, and DFCS). It appeared that the sister had described the incident as horseplay, wresting around, accidental contact, no big deal. However, the parents and others began to call it “oral sex.” When the parents interrogated Defendant about "having oral sex" with his sister, and demanded that he own up to it, Defendant finally admitted that it happened.
Both children had been adopted from situations involving severe neglect and abuse. Defense counsel interviewed the parents about Defendant’s history, and obtained extensive records documenting that history. The parents explained, and the records confirmed, that Defendant had suffered trauma as a child; had cognitive difficulties; had a history of being a "yes man," going along with whatever he thinks you want from him.
Defense counsel hired a forensic psychologist to review all the case materials and conduct a psychological evaluation of Defendant. She determined that Defendant had PTSD, significant cognitive deficits, and highly elevated levels of susceptibility to influence, compliance, and “interrogative suggestibility.” She believed that the way his parents and others confronted/interrogated him increased his risk of compliance and suggestibility. Ultimately, she concluded that there were multiple personal and external factors that could have led Defendant to “falsely confess” – to go along with the allegations when, in fact, there was no sexually inappropriate behavior.
After presenting this information to the police detective, he decided to terminate his investigation and not to arrest Defendant.