Certain hard truths are undeniable. First, sexual molesters should “burn in hell.” Second, defense lawyers must defend to the best of their ability. Third, some allegations of abuse are shaky – particularly those involving by troubled or vindictive teens or situations where someone is manipulating children.
So the defender has a daunting job. A suspect has been accused of violating/abusing a child. Hearts go out to the child, whose trauma may be as crippling as the deed itself.
There are a lot of good materials available to assist defense counsel. Among the more useful pieces of advice:
- Given social media, check what if anything appears on Facebook, the Internet, or elsewhere on social media concerning this incident and/or the lifestyle of the victim.
- Assess the complaining party by using PTSD checklists; delve into the degree to which the individual has been socially, mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually affected.
- Employ the fact that individuals do not always remember accurately.
This last bullet is inspired by Peter Robinson’s excellent detective story, When The Music’s Over. The victim is a sensitive, perceptive adult woman who tries to “get it right” but recognizes that memory might play tricks on her.
Brainstorming a bit with author Robinson’s well-honed words, consider the following, either as fodder for cross-examination or for opening/closing statement:
- Have you written down what happened, perhaps to help you recall? What is your experience with how accurate your memory is? You can only imagine yourself from where you are now; agreed? That doesn’t mean you don’t remember; it just means you’re looking back from a great distance, as if you were staring through the wrong end of a telescope, right? You might think you see details, even recall smells and textures. But they may not necessarily match the past exactly.
- Don’t minds go off on tangents? Do you agree that our recollections can be hopelessly mixed up? Won’t you agree that memory is not necessarily accurate even though it is permanently in our head? Isn’t it true that we must be careful before we take our memories as God’s truth?
- Memories are funny things. Sometimes we can remember specific days – what we were wearing, whether the music was too loud. But a lot of times, we talk to somebody else who has a completely different recollection. And we have to admit our recall is perhaps inaccurate.
- A lot of these things happened. Maybe we are remembering them wrong.
In our memories, we often alter what we originally saw. It’s as if our memory and imagination are in competition. Perception fights with facts. History goes up against fiction.
- One thing gets easily transformed into the other — you cannot depend on memory to provide the kind of evidence to convict somebody beyond rational doubt.
- Likely this situation was scary for you. Would you agree that our imaginations often run a little while when we are afraid?
- Are you open to the fact that maybe you don’t remember all the details with total clarity? Maybe what you recall is only speculation. Maybe your imagination is working overtime – after all, what happened must be a blur. Sure, you are telling your “truth” the best way you can. But won’t you agree – that doesn’t mean you’ve got it right…
- It’s odd how memory works. You think you are remembering details. But when you try to recall months or years later, things have shifted in your memory. Maybe it didn’t happen the way you remembered it. Maybe you forgot some things. Maybe you added stuff. Surely you cannot swear to every little detail….