This is what uncorroborated child testimony looks like

Uncorroborated child testimony in Sex Offender cases is an especially dangerous problem, given the stakes when the child is confused/mistaken/lying. Jurors can and should demand more to make sure that they get the right result, whether guilty or not guilty.

Two men have now been exonerated from a case in which there was no physical evidence; only the testimony of one child who said that that he felt extreme pressure from detectives to describe a crime he never saw.

This case is a troubling example of what can happen when police detectives pressure a child to provide testimony, overlook the fact that the testimony is not credible, and then rabidly prosecute the case even when the testimony is not corroborated with physical evidence. In many sex crime cases, detectives will pressure a child to describe a crime that might not have even occurred, and they often taint the witness through repeated leading questions and fact suggestion.

Jurors can prevent similar misguided results such as in the case below by avoiding reactionary emotional responses to horrific but unproven allegations, and use well-reasoned judgment in rendering a verdict.

Kudos to the child in this case who took the brave step of coming forward and admitting the truth so that a wrong could be made right.

Two Men Wrongly Convicted Set Free After 39 Years


Court Helps Rehabilitate Rather than Punish Prostitutes

Punishing Prostitutes in Tennessee

I’ve just learned about the WINGS (Women in Need of Gender Specific Services) court, and I’m thinking how wonderful this program could be for Memphis, Tennessee. Instead, we charge them for being too close to a church or school with a completely arbitrary distance requirement (as the crow flies) so that we can lock them up in jail for a week for each offense. They spend so much time going in and out of jail, and coming on and off drug binges, that we’re making rehabilitation nearly impossible for them.

(From the original Chicago Talks article)

Associate Judge Rosemary Higgins on Monday discussed a Cook County court program that helps convicted prostitutes into treatment instead of sending them to jail.

Higgins, 58, said WINGS (Women in Need of Gender Specific Services) court was looking for money from the county, state and federal governments to support the program. The program operates with the help of volunteers and non-profit organizations.

The court was launched in January 2011 with support from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Chicago Dream Center and other organizations. It is one of only two courts in the nation that serves women convicted of felony prostitution. Also, the program in Cook County is the largest in the nation.

“This is the most interesting thing I do,” Higgins said. “It’s the most important work I’ve done as a judge.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Why Kids Sext

This is a national article, but I can tell you as the Memphis Sex Crime Attorney that Teen Sexting in Tennessee can land you in prison and on the Sex Offender Registry for the rest of your life.

The Atlantic magazine has an interesting article into the rise of teen sexting  An inquiry into one recent scandal reveals how kids think about sexting — and what parents and police should do about it.

This anecdote addresses the overwhelming prevalence of teen sexting: “After just a couple of days, the deputies had filled multiple evidence bins with phones, and they couldn’t see an end to it. Fears of a cabal got replaced by a more mundane concern: what to do with “hundreds of damned phones. I told the deputies, ‘We got to draw the line somewhere or we’re going to end up talking to every teenager in the damned county!’”

In this case, the prosecutors recognized that applying the law and making each of these youth a sex offender would be an inappropriate response. Also, because many of the teens had taken photos of themselves and proudly texted them to others, it was difficult to see them as victims in the way the statute imagines them to be.

As the Tennessee statute is currently written, a child taking a photo of himself or herself and sending it to a boyfriend or girlfriend is creating and distributing child pornography. If this case had occurred in Tennessee, these youth could receive up to twelve years in prison at 100%, be included on the sexual offender registry, and be on community supervision for life. We can only hope that law enforcement would also question the vague and overly broad statutes here also.

Here is the article: Why Kids Sext


John Grisham: We’ve gone nuts with locking up sex offenders

Even though the ‘shame police’ have quickly beaten John Grisham into submission, kudos to him for taking a stand on an unpopular idea whose time has come – distinguishing between “real-world abusers” and “those who downloaded content, accidentally or otherwise.”

Under the crimes of Tennessee, he would be making a distinction between “real-world abuser crimes” like rape, statutory rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, and sexual battery over “downloader” offenses like Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.

We can only hope that in the future, public policies and criminal sentencing guidelines in these cases will be ruled by reason and logic, rather than pseudo-science, political grandstanding, and scaremongering.

Article reprinted here with link to the original below:

America is wrongly jailing far too many people for viewing child pornography, the best-selling legal novelist John Grisham has told The Telegraph in a wide-ranging attack on the US judicial system and the country’s sky-high prison rates.

Mr Grisham, 59, argued America’s judges had “gone crazy” over the past 30 years, locking up far too many people, from white collar criminals like the businesswoman Martha Stewart, to black teenagers on minor drugs charges and – he added – those who had viewed child porn online.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he said in an exclusive interview to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain which is published next week.

“But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

The author of legal thrillers such as The Firm and A Time to Kill who has sold more than 275m books during his 25-year career, cited the case of a “good buddy from law school” who was caught up in a Canadian child porn sting operation a decade ago as an example of excessive sentencing.

“His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled ‘sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that’. And it said ’16-year-old girls’. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff – it was 16 year old girls who looked 30.

“He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people – sex offenders – and he went to prison for three years.”

“There’s so many of them now. There’s so many ‘sex offenders’ – that’s what they’re called – that they put them in the same prison. Like they’re a bunch of perverts, or something; thousands of ’em. We’ve gone nuts with this incarceration,” he added in his loft-office in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Asked about the argument that viewing child pornography fuelled the industry of abuse needed to create the pictures, Mr Grisham said that current sentencing policies failed to draw a distinction between real-world abusers and those who downloaded content, accidentally or otherwise.

“I have no sympathy for real paedophiles,” he said, “God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting,” adding sentencing disparities between blacks and whites was likely to be the subject of his next book.

There are currently some 2.2m people in jail in the US – or more than 750 per 100,000 population – which makes the US by far the heaviest user of prison sentences in the world. By contrast, Britain imprisons just 154 per 100,000 population.

However Mr Grisham’s remarks are likely to anger child-rights campaigners that over the past decade have successfully lobbied the US Congress to demand tougher sentences for those who access child pornography online.

Since 2004 average sentences for those who possess – but do not produce – child pornography have nearly doubled in the US, from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

However the issue of sex-offender sentencing has sparked some debate in the US legal community after it emerged that in some cases those who viewed child porn online were at risk of receiving harsher sentences than those who committed physical acts against children.

A provocative article in the libertarian magazine Reason headlined “Looking v Touching” argued last February that something was “seriously wrong with a justice system in which people who look at images of child rape can be punished more severely than people who rape children”.

And in January this year the US Supreme Court was unable to resolve a debate over whether a man who viewed images of a child rape should be as liable to pay the same financial compensation to the victim as the original perpetrator of the crime.

Mr Grisham, who earned $17m (£10.7) from his work last year according to Forbes, is still one of America’s highest paid novelists and is a self-declared Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in her failed 2008 bid to win the White House.

He has waded into political issues in the past, writing newspaper columns against the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the death penalty as well as serving on the board of the Innocence Project, a campaign group that uses DNA analysis to end miscarriages of justice.

In the interview to promote Gray Mountain, a fast-paced thriller in which a young lawyer takes on ‘Big Coal’ as it destroys the rural landscape of Virginia, Mr Grisham spoke freely on a range of subjects from politics to publishing.

Among the highlights were his contention that Barack Obama had presided over “amateur hour” at the White House during his six years as president, and that was seeking to establish an effective online monopoly that could ultimately destroy the paperback books business.

Swedish Man Acquitted of Rape Due to ‘Sexomnia’

Is Sexomnia a real thing?

Although this sounds like a silly legal argument for people who don’t know much about it, courts and juries are starting to realize that this can be a real phenomenon, especially with the use of sleep aids.

“A Swedish man who was convicted of rape had his charges overturned after an appeals court found the man could have been asleep during the attack and cited ‘sexomnia’ as a reason he should be released.” More information here.

Article also posted here:

A Swedish man who was convicted of rape had his charges overturned after an appeals court found the man could have been asleep during the attack and cited “sexomnia” as a reason he should be released.

Mikael Halvarsson was acquitted of rape this month after experts said he was asleep during the attack and had no memory of the incident, according to a translated court ruling from the Sundsvall appeals court in Sweden.

Halvarsson was accused after the victim woke up as Halvarsson allegedly assaulted her on April 2, 2014. They had been sleeping in the same bed, but they each had their own blanket, according to the translated court documents, which also noted that she called the police the next morning, and they found Halvarsson still asleep in her bed when they arrived.

In the appeal, Halvarsson’s previous girlfriend testified that he had previously tried once to have sex with her when she was sleeping. When she stopped him, he then acted confused and asked what had happened.

His mother also confirmed that he had disturbed sleeping patterns before.

While the term sexomnia may seem made up for the purposes of getting away with a crime, Dr. Kingman Strohl, a professor of medicine and director of research at the Sleep Center at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, confirmed it’s an actual medical diagnosis that includes unintentional sexual behaviors during sleep.