Articles Posted in Crimes Involving Children

In a recent California sexual assault case before a state appeals court, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted expert testimony from a doctor who testified that only a very small percentage of child sexual abuse allegations are false. The defendant in the case was charged with 12 counts of lewd acts against a child younger than 14 years old under Penal Code 288(b)(1), and one count of continuous sexual abuse under 14 under Penal Code 288.5(a).

The defendant’s first trial ended in a hung jury, but when he was subsequently retried for the same crimes he was convicted on all counts. He was sentenced to a total term of 104 years. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial judge improperly admitted expert testimony about child sexual abuse.

A trial court normally has significant discretion in deciding whether to admit or exclude expert testimony. In child sexual abuse cases, state courts have generally held that expert testimony on rape trauma syndrome may be admissible in order to dispel misconceptions about rape and rape victims. It can explain, for example, why there was a delay in reporting the abuse. However, such testimony is not warranted in all cases. For example, in another case in which the victim reported the attack soon after it happened, and the victim had a severe emotional reaction, testimony about rape trauma syndrome did not serve the purpose of rebutting misconceptions and should not have been admitted.

In a recent California criminal case before a California court of appeals, the court had to decide whether a prosecutor’s office could subpoena and use an alleged sexually violent predator’s confidential medical records in a proceeding under the Sexually Violent Predator Act.

According to the court’s opinion, back in the 1980s, a jury found the defendant guilty of child sex offenses and sentenced him to a total of 23 years in prison. Before he was released, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed a sexually violent predator (SVP) petition. In 2009, a jury found the defendant was a sexually violent predator and ordered him to be civilly committed to a state hospital. The defendant filed a petition for unconditional discharge or for conditional release. The district attorney’s office subsequently served a subpoena on the hospital to obtain the defendant’s medical records. The defendant filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that the prosecutor’s office could not subpoena his confidential medical records.

The Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) allows an individual to be civilly committed for an indefinite term if a jury finds the individual to be a sexually violent predator beyond a reasonable doubt. Under section 6600 of the Act, a SVP is defined as a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against at least one person and who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder “that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.” An alleged SVP has the right to a jury trial, to the representation of counsel, to retain experts, and to access relevant medical records and reports. Under section 6603(j), a medical evaluator must include a statement of all records the evaluator reviewed, and the parties can request a copy of those records.

In a California criminal case involving the death of a six-month-old baby, a court held that the father’s confession to the baby’s mother could be admitted. According to the court’s opinion, the father was watching his six-month-old daughter by himself one day, and called her mother to tell her that the baby was not breathing. When her mother arrived, she was cold to the touch, and no one could resuscitate her. The baby died, and an exam later showed bruises, rib fractures, and a punctured lung, among other injuries.

The father later accompanied the police to the police station. He was read his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with officers in an interview room. He told the officers that the baby stopped breathing while she was laying in her crib. After the officers asked if the defendant would take a polygraph test, he asked if he could have an attorney, and repeated his request for an attorney four more times. The officers then arrested the father.

Several hours later, the police allowed the father to meet with the baby’s mother in an interview room. An officer told the mother that she might be able to get a “full explanation” of what happened” because she “[had] a right to know.” The conversation between the two was recorded. The father first gave the mother the same explanation that he had given police. An officer then came in the room and said that the autopsy showed that the baby did not suffocate, and that she was beaten to death. The officer told the parents that they both could go to jail for child neglect, and that this would be the last time they could talk to each other in person.

Continue reading ›

Contact Information