Yesterday in Lumpkin County Superior Court, our client heard the two sweetest words an innocent man can hear in a court of law—“Not Guilty.” Our client was falsely accused of child molestation and sexual battery of a child under the age of 16. The trial took almost two weeks and was tried by Tom Church and our experienced paralegal, Emily Brooks, along with co-counsel Bob Rubin.
The trial featured some of the central issues that can come up in child molestation and abuse cases. Though our client was innocent, he faced a substantial risk of being convicted based on allegations made by a four-year-old girl during several interviews by her parents and later in two “forensic interviews.” A forensic interview is a special kind of interview designed to elicit the truth from children that disclose potential abuse. They are designed to account for the fact that children have different ways of processing memories and are highly susceptible to third party influences, especially from parents.
The interviews in this case were deeply flawed and did not account for the child’s “coaching” by her mother, which had heavily influenced the child into making the false allegations. Coaching occurs when a parent or other adult knowingly or unknowingly guides or pressures a child into making false allegations of child abuse. At trial, we were able to pick apart these interviews by cross-examining the interviewer and putting our own expert witnesses on the stand to explain how the mother’s prior questioning of the child had “tainted” the child’s memory. We also showed that the mother’s own suspicion influenced her questioning of the child.
Aside from the child’s statements, many of which were inconsistent, there was absolutely zero evidence corroborating the allegations. In fact, our witnesses explained that the scenario described by the child was impossible. We were able to effectively cross-examine the State’s GBI agent and other witnesses to point out the various inconsistencies and lack of corroborating evidence in their case. We also retained an expert who searched our client’s electronic devices, which did not contain any child pornography or evidence of child molestation, and he explained to the jury that this is uncommon in child molestation cases. Last but not least, we had respected members of the community testify as “character witnesses” who testified to the jury about our client’s good character, honesty, and the fact that he had never acted inappropriately with children.
The trial was an emotional one, especially since our client was a well-known figure in the community and had been close friends with the family of the alleged victim. As in many child abuse cases, the mere fact that he was accused led many to assume he was guilty. The State’s burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant’s presumption of innocence don’t always apply in these kinds of cases, no matter what the jury is instructed by the judge.
Yesterday, however, our client was able to walk out of the courthouse the same way he came in, as an innocent man surrounded by his loving family. Today, he can begin the process of rebuilding his life and clearing his name.
If you or a loved one is facing a child molestation or abuse investigation or charges, contact our firm. Our experienced team is ready to help you fight for justice.