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Troubling story underscores why evidence needs to be tested

The following account of a sex-crimes investigation and trial might unnerve some readers, but not for reasons they might immediately assume.

And, in reading today's post, many of our readers might be surprised and dismayed by some of its material facts.

Those facts are fundamentally sad, because they point to injustice in what is termed the criminal "justice" sphere and also to the slippery slope that prevails when the public loses confidence in the integrity of law enforcement and criminal investigations.

In a nutshell, here's what recently happened on appeal regarding a case involving 30 individuals who were accused of being part of a sex-trafficking ring that extended across several states: a federal judge upheld a lower-court ruling that dismissed guilty verdicts against several defendants, stating that the prosecution's entire claim "may be fictitious." One U.S. attorney stated that the court ruling last week could affect the government's case against a number of other alleged trafficking participants, as well.

At the core of the case was a spotlight that shined glaringly on the police officer who commenced the investigation several years back. As related by one media article discussing the sex trafficking case and problematic evidentiary issues marking it, the appellate court found the officer "not truthful" concerning testimony she offered regarding alleged wrongdoers and victims.

One defense attorney -- whose client was acquitted after he spent two years in prison -- stated that problems with testimony and offered evidence were apparent very early in the case and that she brought them to the court's attention.

"How did the prosecutor not see that?" she queried, following the appellate ruling.

The police investigator is presently on administrative leave.

"[I]f she lied under oath," says one criminal law professor and case commentator, "she should be fired."

The case is certainly instructive for its underscoring of the need for a proven criminal defense attorney to closely examine -- and, when necessary, aggressively challenge -- state-offered evidence in any criminal matter.

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