Sometimes we found ourselves having to deal with situations where the circumstances are not good for anyone involved. You naturally have sympathy for the plight of those at the center of the difficulty and you might even try to help but life gets complicated sometimes and its hard to find the right target for your compassion. What could evoke stronger feelings of sympathy than child abuse, wrongful accusations, bureaucracy run rampant and a Kafkaesque setting and outcome.
As a young and hungry lawyer with two daughters toddling around the house and another baby on the way I was appointed to defend and indigent defendant in Dallas County. I took on almost any kind of work even if the pay was low. It was low for those appointments but it was income and all revenues were appreciated and needed. I was with a partner and we were surviving in our little two-man practice from month to month. As soon as the appointment was made I was queasy. The charge was rape of a child. That was all I knew initially. When I checked with the prosecutor I got to see the “rap” sheet on the guy. Those included all arrests and the charges filed whether there was a conviction or not. The guy had one very old DWI against him more than 10 years old and it wouldn’t be qualify as evidence against him because of his age. Otherwise he was clean. That was suprising. Usually, the defendants I was appointed to represent had rather extensive rap sheets. I had learned to check with the prosecutor first before even interviewing the client because he allowed me to know more about the guy and test his truthfulness with me. If you just relied on what they told you you would end up being got by surprise more often than not.
This guy was about 40. He was a laborer with only a high school diploma. He drove trucks for short haul and delivery. He was a rather boring person with little personality and what he had wasn’t all that endearing. He had been in jail already for about 4 months as he couldn’t make bail. He had married a lady a few years earlier. She had a daughter who became his step daughter. The young girl was severely mentally handicapped. At the time of trial she was about 14 but had the functional and emotional abilities of maybe a 3 year old. The man’s wife died of cancer. The daughter had been in a special home for the mentally challenged in Denton for several years already. She needed full-time supervision. She was confined to a wheelchair often because she also had motor skill problems due to cerebral palsy. The couple would go up to visit her on weekends and sometimes they would bring her back home to visit with them for a couple of days. They did this two or three times a month.
After the wife died the man continued to go visit the girl very faithfully a few times and month and he continued the habit of bringing her home once or so a month to spend a day and night with him. The girl talked about her she and her “daddy” slept together when she would go home with him. The workers got alarmed for whatever reason and brought in Child Protective Services. They found bruises on her and interviewed her and concluded that the man was having sexual relations with her when he took her home. A medical examination was inconclusive but the CPS worker convinced herself the child was being raped and brought charges to the Dallas County prosecutor since that is where the alleged crime occurred.
The man admitted readily sleeping in the same bed with the girl. She wanted to be with him at night. She was alone at the facility and enjoyed his company. He completely denied ever abusing her. After listening to him and reviewing all the evidence against him I believed him. They were trying to put him away for years, heavy stuff. We prepared and then went to trial. As soon as the jury was read the indictment you could see that look on their faces as they observed our guy–he is a monster. That was before any evidence was even introduced.
The State presented its witnesses and evidence. The doctor admitted the child had severe problems and that he couldn ‘t find any specific evidence to support a rape, or at least not one that occurred with her step dad. The CPS worker was very aggressive and hostile. She was the one who brought the accusation and wanted to defend her position. I made her admit that the bumps and bruises on her was likely from the other kids in the facility. They couldn’t supervise all them 24/7 and the children would often attack one another. All she really offered was that the girl told her they slept together and dad would be close to her. I did a good job and made her look like just what she was–a Nurse Cratchet.
The last witness was the little girl. They brought her in for show and the arouse the jury. She really couldn’t relate a coherent sequence of events. She was in the wheelchair and you could see her curl up with fright when they brought her into the courtroom. My heart sank with sadness for her and worry over the effect on the jury. All she really did on direct examination was say our guy was her “daddy” and that she was scared. Fortunately I had children of my own and only asked a few very simple questions. Like would you like your daddy to give you a hug now. She nodded yes, thank God.
We never had to offer a defense. After the prosecution rested they realized that their “case” had fallen apart because there simply wasn’t any credible evidence our guy ever molested that poor child. During the recess they offered us a deal. They would drop all the felony charges and have him plead guilty to a simple assault for time served. Our guy by this point had been in jail already for 6 months. By pleading guilty he was guaranteed to walk out of the courtroom that day a free man and not be labeled a sex offender. I hated recommending it to him and left the choice to him. He hated the jail as you can imagine anyone would, especially someone who was innocent. I couldn’t guarantee him we would win. He was not very articulate and was not going to make a good witness for himself. That is a shame but that is the fact of the matter. He jumped at the chance to get out. He was also able to have visitations with the girl at the facility. We took the deal. He pled guilty to the assault which was a lie but it allowed him to walk out of the courtroom. This was done not for justice but simply so the prosecutor could save face by getting a “conviction”.
After the trial I was able to talk to some of the jurors. Just as I had hoped and suspected they were going to acquit our man. After they got over the initial shock of the charges and starting looking at the evidence they were convinced he had not harmed her. He could have walk out that day or the next with an acquittal.
Who were the “winner” and “losers” in this? The prosecutors hate to lose. They are interested in getting scalps on the wall and I assure you “justice” is not their goal. They figure the system will produce justice. That poor child went back to her very restrictive and confined life. I don’t know what pleasures she was able to have in her life but I do hope they existed for her. Her tiny, frail body and terrified face haunted me long after. Our guy was never going to be voted the most popular or be the envy of anyone but he led his own quiet life and that should be anyone’s right. We all don’t have to be articulate or outgoing or funny or rich to be entitled to make our own walk in life without a busybody attempting to destroy us. I hope he faired well with his life and found some measure of happiness. That CPS worker I hope got her just rewards but I doubt she did. At a minimum she should have been fired. A do -gooder can wreak havoc on so many lives by being convinced of the rightness of their cause, whatever that cause may be. She deserved disrespect and shame whether she ever received them or not.
If it doesn’t worry the heck out of you yet that the IRS will be the enforcement agency for the new Health Care bill it should. They are getting an extra 10 billion for the purpose. They are from Government, Inc. and are only here to help you—yeah, right! http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com