SEX OFFENSES AND THE HUMAN MIND

SEX OFFENSES AND THE HUMAN MIND

Anyone can be accused of anything in life and once the accusation is made it very difficult or almost impossible to "undo" the alleged assigned act.

As a criminal defense attorney, I find the memory components and make up of the human mind fascinating. Scientist and doctors universally agree that memory and thought process do not coincide universally with every living human creature. In other words, we all see things, think about things, absorb thoughts and actions completely differently from each other.

I am reminded of an old high school professor of mine at Mount Saint Joseph High school in Baltimore, Maryland. One day, sitting in class he announced he was going to perform an experiment. He abruptly left the room and when he did 3 people, 2 men and 1 woman, all different ethnic groups, stormed into the classroom and announced a robbery. At first all of us were a little taken back but we knew this had to be an act. They ranted and raved and walked up and down the aisles screaming at people trying to intimidate. They abruptly left after less than 60 seconds. The professor then came back in the room and asked us all to write down answers to a series of questions. I think you probably know where this is going. Out of the 10 questions the professor asked each one of us to write down, only about 35% of all the answers in the class were factually correct. They were questions such as who was holding the bag that allegedly had money and it, what color pants and shirt did each person where, color of hair and ofcourse skin color and ethnic background. So much for eye witness testimony!

It was one of the first demonstrations that really opened my brain about how people perceive events that actually happened right before their eyes. It made me realize, also, as a future criminal defense lawyer how the eyewitness perception ratio of accuracy is so low. Yet, out of all the types of evidence that our courts use, eyewitness testimony is probably one of the top types of evidence used to convict individuals in a court of law. Of course, DNA evidence, blood evidence and other scientific technical tools used are perceived to be more accurate, yet for some reason in our society a person's word about what they saw or they perceived is looked upon as "Golden".

A good example is the Judge Kavanaugh shenanigans that are going on now in the Senate. As a criminal defense attorney, to be honest, I have to question the accuracy of this alleged victim's story that occurred some 30 years ago. However, our society, our criminal justice system and obviously the United States Senate, take any sexual allegation unbelievably serious. That's not to say that any allegation like this should not be taken seriously. Of course it should. As the decades go by and our society evolves it is extremely important that all people who have been victimized should have a voice to be heard. My concern as a sex offense attorney is that the voice that is sometimes expressed as a victim, can sometimes be used as a weapon against individuals who have never in fact committed a crime but are being accused of same.

And hence, we have our judicial adversarial system fight out who in fact is telling the truth. The fact of the matter is that in many situations no one ever really finds out what the truth is. A court of law is designed not necessarily to seek truth but to simply reach a level of "probable truth", now defined in our system as "beyond a reasonable doubt", which allows us as a society to feel compelled to judge that person guilty if that "doubt" is absent. The conventional thought is that most people will take a stand or side on a particular issue or accusation depending upon where they poise in their life. Is it a loved one or friend is being accused? Do you know the victim or the victim close to you? These things tend to influence us in our ability to discern and make a determination about guilt or innocence rather than allowing the facts to take us where they should.

The American jurisprudence system of determining guilt or innocence is simply an "all out" calculated brawl. Yes, there are rules to play by via lawyers and judges in a court of law. But what happens when you're accused of an immoral act or crime such as a sex offense and the courts do not prosecute or you are exonerated? The answer is that no matter what you do, simply because an accusation has been made, you have been "branded". Many people in our society look at that and comment, well that's a simple price to pay for trying to protect victims in our society who historically have not been heard nor taken seriously. There is a lot to say for that and quite frankly it's absolutely imperative that our judicial system take these individuals speak out and say a crime has been committed, even if it was 30 years ago seriously. The problem is, we has human beings know that accusations are not always correct. We also know that sometimes individuals hold back and keep trauma that has occurred to them way down deep inside because of the pain it has caused them in their life. The question is how do you protect both parties until the issue is resolved?

The answer can be found in a thousand courtrooms across this country where defense attorneys and prosecutors struggle to try and find a way to get to the ultimate truth of the matter. Of course, that never really happens. All that really happens is whether or not the alleged individual is exonerated because the state or government cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. But what happens to the accused defendant who is charged and found not guilty? Who picks up the pieces of his or her life and the trauma of having to go through an experience such as being charged with a major sex offense? That individual usually suffers the rest of her life because the community, friends and family deep down inside somewhere remember that he/she was accused of this offense by someone else. Somehow, for some reason we as a society don't seem to acknowledge that.

Judge Kavanaugh is being accused of a sex offense that occurred some 30+ years ago. The facts will most likely show that the victim's memory is not clear on many aspects of what actually occurred. From my experience whenever this type of accusation occurs the judicial process, or in this case the senatorial process, kicks into action, the alleged events become more crystallized over time. Why is that you may ask? The answer is not that the victim him or herself necessarily crystallizes the facts, but the mechanical process and governmental agencies that put together cases to "win" the case do. Players such as police and prosecutors play a vital part in how the entire process unfolds.

For example, if a individual makes a statement about some act that is improper sexually that may or may not be sincere to a third-party, many times that 3rd party will take action to prompt the alleged victim into contacting authorities. A good example is a therapist who by law must report any sexual abuse to the police. As soon as the victim is placed in a situation where he or she must continually tell the story, it becomes more concrete and the foundation becomes stronger because of the expectations of the individuals around him or her. There are many motivating factors for this. Some are because of expectation and others are because of societal needs to push certain types of crimes into the limelight. The sad thing about this is that many people who are real victims of abuse have to suffer and go through this same mechanical process in order to get some sort of truth or justice.

The bottom line is that we as a society and as a judicial system have to find a better way of handling these matters. The old adage is very true, "innocent until proven guilty". But is that really true when it comes to sex offense cases? Many people who have been exonerated from an outlandish accusation still find themselves years later traumatized and hurt in many different ways.

If you are accused of any type of crime or sexual accusation, it is extremely important that you contact a lawyer that understands the judicial process and how these accusations are processed. It may be very unfair and completely ridiculous in many ways, however it's imperative that you protect yourself immediately. Don't be fooled by any police authorities such as a detective simply wanting to ask you questions to "take care of the situation". Most people in that situation have an agenda and it is imperative that you not answer any questions until you have a competent lawyer by your side.

Jim Crawford

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