Michigan CSC Trial: The Theme of the Case
In order to successfully convince the jury that the prosecution has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense attorney must use a theme. The theme must be woven into every part of the defense case, starting with voir dire. The defense attorney will use this theme in his opening statement, during cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, and during his closing argument. There are two main themes that can be used, but the defense attorney should tailor the theme of the case to the specific facts of the defendant’s case. These two themes are important to consider if the defense is claiming that the child has made false accusations.
Dysfunctional Families as the Theme of the CSC Case
The first theme is dysfunctional families. Sometimes, children will falsely accuse an adult family member of sexual abuse when there is family crisis. This family crisis could be the child’s parents getting divorced or fighting for custody, or a family member who is wasting family resources due to a drug or alcohol problem. A daughter could falsely accuse her mother’s new boyfriend because the daughter resents her mother for dating, or a teenager could make false accusations because he is acting out at school and needs an excuse for his behavior. Other common themes include: suggestive and leading questioning by social workers, law enforcement officers, and school officials; intentionally placed false memories; new stepparents enforcing rules at home which causes the child to resent the parent and stepparent; the child suffering from a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder; and prior sexual abuse in the family. These themes emphasize the defense’s argument that the defendant is being falsely accused.
Defective Police Work as the Theme of the CSC Case
The second theme is defective police work. Law enforcement officers can make significant errors when investigating child sexual abuse cases, as police often believe the child accuser’s story without questioning what the child says. A detective will hear the child’s story, believe it without question, and then work to confirm their belief that the child is telling the truth. Common themes of defective police work include: officers working to confirm the statement of the child instead of challenging and testing the truthfulness of the statement; failing to seek out counseling records, school records, or other children who have allegedly witnessed the abuse; failing to interview witnesses who may contradict the child’s statement; using suggestive interrogation techniques when interviewing the child that do not test the allegations; and failing to take a complete history of the child’s life, including mental health history, drug or alcohol abuse, and use of psychiatric prescription medicine.
Stick to Just One Theme in a CSC Case
Either overarching theme can help the defense attorney successfully argue that the defendant was falsely accused. While both themes may be applicable to a certain case, it is important for the defense attorney to stick to one theme and use it at every relevant point in the case. If there is a dysfunctional family at issue and the defendant is a victim of defective police work, the defense attorney must choose the stronger theme, but is wise to present evidence on both issues. A successful defense attorney will begin to develop the theme beginning with his very first meeting with his client and will convince the jury of the theme’s importance to the defense’s case.
The first step in working towards a favorable outcome in your sex crimes case is to call our office at 1-800-883-2138 or use the Contact Us form for a free and confidential consultation. Our case analysts are happy to speak with you about the specifics of your case and help you fight back against the allegations against you.