A Sobering Rejection

On the theory that a lawyer is only as good as his last verdict, I am not very good at all. A jury returned a verdict against my client this afternoon, convicting him of two counts relating to the sexual abuse of a child. That the jury acquitted on two related counts is no consolation. My client faces fives years behind bars at a minimum. He insists he is innocent.

A hard truth of criminal defense work is that we lawyers are not witnesses to the events that bring a case to trial. We are advocates. Hence, when a jury returns a verdict against our client it is a very personal rejection. The jury has listened to, and then rejected, the argument we made on behalf of a client.

But some cases cause me to scratch my head and wonder more than others. In the verdict returned today, my client, a man in his forties, was accused by an eight-year-old girl of having placed his hand down her pants and "tickled" her. When he was done, she claimed he smelled his fingers.

At least that was one version of her testimony. At trial, the girl, now ten, claimed the tickling took place in a different location, and that events wholly at odds with her prior statements had taken place. We were shocked by the difference in recollection and argued that all of her testimoney was unreliable. The state was reduced to arguing that all the jury had to do was believe any part of it, begging for an incoherent conviction. The jury forgave the inconsistencies, and did not credit my client's denial at all.

The terror of the case is that there were no other witnesses, no corroboration of the girl's claims. Nothing. Just the word of an eight-year-old living in a house characterized by the turmoil of a bitter divorce. This and this alone is sufficient to convict.

I tried a good case. I know I did. And there is nothing more I could have done for my client. But still the sense of failure weighs heavily on me. I look at this case and wonder whether I would ever consent to babysit an eight-year-old child, or otherwise be left alone with a child. And the answer is simple: I would want a witness. It is too easy for a child to see Santa one moment and wicked uncle Ernie the next. Jurors apparently feel obliged to take any utterance from the mouth of a babe and rely upon it.

So I failed my client. He was convicted. He proclaims still his innocence. But to six jurors and now a world of strangers who will never know him, he is a child molester. But I wonder, really, whether it should be so simple to reach these devastating judgments on such flimsy evidence. I wonder whether the truth was not crucified in this trial. I wonder, and I retreat into a place of silent recrimination as I prepare for the next such trial.

I am free today. My client is out on bond. The state can crow over a conviction. But somehow this seems less justice than casting darts. When the lone word of a child, inconsistent and uncorroborated in any respect is sufficient to convict, we are all potential victims.

Comments: (5)

  • Very sad, and your view about being around childre...
    Very sad, and your view about being around children is far from unusual. I will not be alone with a child. Most guys I know feel the same way. It's too dangerous.
    You also haven't brought up the use of child sex abuse allegations in divorce negotiations. We've all seen cases where there's no way the guy was guilty; but wifey wanted big alimony check and custody (mainly for child support, which is padding to alimony), so the accusation was made.
    The rise of child sex hysteria is merely one of the battles in the War Against Men. Many men and young men are retreating to the solitude of the Internet. It's simply too risky to venture out into this hysterical new world where a girl who had a few drinks was "roofied" and raped; where children are used as props in a divorce war; and where a child's imagination turns to the real life of another man in prison.
    Posted on May 4, 2010 at 7:12 am by Mike
  • I am sorry, Norm. I am certain you tried a great ...
    I am sorry, Norm. I am certain you tried a great case. If you were a girl, you could go to your office and cry. I don't know, maybe that's what you do anyway. I've had that exact same case a couple of times with results the same as yours. Sigh. Keep fighting the good fight and inspiring the rest of us to do the same.
    Posted on May 4, 2010 at 7:36 am by Mirriam Seddiq
  • This is outrageous, simpley outrageous. See my own...
    This is outrageous, simpley outrageous. See my own comment somewhere below regarding my own confrontation with a child-witness at GA 23, where the State of Connecticut suborned the perjured testimonies of two police officers and five civilians, including a Spanish-speaking child, six years old, whom I will not name here. This child, unfortunately, is cursed for life, by the illegal and unlawful actions of the State.
    Once again, I recommend the definitive book in this area: No Crueler Tyrannies by Dorothy Rabinowitz (Wall St. Journal Ed. Board), 2003, re: the long-drawn-out persecution of the Amirault family by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (where I now reside) in the Fells Acre Day Care fiasco-hysteria/witch-hunt, Malden, Mass.
    What can I say? I am saddened, upset and feel your pain, as well as others above.
    Posted on May 4, 2010 at 8:09 am by William Doriss
  • The topic of sexual offenders is of interest to me...
    The topic of sexual offenders is of interest to me as the state tried to frame me on this grounds. I forget how many times I was accosted by unknown women trying to hook up with me or get into my car. Someone who replied to a Huffington Post comment I made including this said if I had taken the bait, the state would have confiscated my car. In a couple of overtures, women suggested going to my apartment--thereby creating grounds for a search during which I believe my computer would have been taken as well as the pile of evidence I have verifying my criminal accusations against corporate attorneys and state's attorneys. Many of the sex offenders' cases resemble cases undertaken by the state with reports by confidential informants. The child witnesses are so vulnerable and malleable, they are more or less confidential informants who are putty in the hands of the malignant state's attorneys.
    Posted on May 4, 2010 at 9:52 am by Henry Berry
  • I hear you. I'll never forget when my wife was pre...
    I hear you. I'll never forget when my wife was pregnant with our first child and I went to a toy store to buy something. I was alone, and while standing in an aisle a little girl walked nearby. Her mom came over and grabbed her hand and looked at me. I was shocked, but I realized then we live in a different world today. Now, I never allow myself to be with my daughters and their friends without another parent. I will never be in my home at a "sleepover," whether my wife is here or not.
    I don't know if your client is innocent, and either do you, but in today's world, it doesn't seem to matter to jurors.
    Posted on May 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm by Brian Tannebaum

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