29 Minute NOT GUILTY verdict Frees Innocent Man, Wrongfully Accused, facing Life in Prison.
After a week long jury trial, on April 1, 2010, the jury in State of Florida vs. A.M., St. Lucie County Case # 56-3008- 4630, returned its NOT GUILTY verdict in an incredible 29 minutes.
A.M. was charged with arguably the most serious, “hot-button”, allegation of our day—-Capital Sexual Battery. Capital Sexual Batter (hereinafter “CSB”) is the alleged raping of a child under the age of twelve (12) years of age. If convicted, the only possible sentence under Florida law is Life in Prison, with NO possibility of probation for parole—–ever.
Most people (including this writer) would agree that such a punishment is warranted for a person guilty of such a heinous crime. But imposing the penultimate penalty on an innocent man is, and should be, troubling to all of us.
These cases are like no other. They require the utmost care and thought in handling, strategy, and execution. And they are expensive. In order to correctly try and win these cases, it is not at all unusual for Defendants to spend in the mid-six figures to assemble the kind of team necessary to win.
Teamwork is essential. All of these cases have complex issues, which typically can only be addressed by witnesses with special expertise in a variety of areas, including but not limited to medicine, psychology, interrogation techniques, suggestibility of children, and proper police investigative techniques.
The “team” in this case consisted of co-counsel Brian Mallonee, Investigator Bradley Perron, paralegals Juanita Dunn and Collette Boyer, Psychologist and Lawyer Ann Dell-Duncan Hively, and Kim Hart.
Kim Hart (http://www.kimhart.com/) is the Executive Director of the National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center, (NCADRC) located in Holland, Ohio. (http://www.falseallegation.org/) For the last twenty (20) years, Kim and the NCADRC have been on the ‘cutting edge’ of cases involving false allegations of child abuse. The “science” on these cases has evolved substantially since the McMartin and like cases that characterized the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Research has been continuing at major academic institutions, and published in peer-review journals, that substantially undermines the previously held belief (by both scientists and lay persons alike) that children are incapable of “making up” these kinds of allegations.
To the contrary, children are especially susceptible to manipulation, imagination, experimentation, and other behaviors that ultimately may lead to a false allegation of sexual misconduct. In the instant case, Kim fulfilled the role of overall litigation supervisor, directing the course of the lawyers, paralegals and investigators, so as to miss no detail, no matter how small, that might militate toward an acquittal.
Investigation is absolutely key to these kinds of cases. Oftentimes, as in this case, the law enforcement investigation is deeply flawed….as normally talented investigators are oftentimes ‘uncomfortable’ with conducting full, fair, unbiased and thorough inquiries into children’s claims—-choosing instead to simply “believe” the accusations, or to “lateral” the case to other agencies, such as Florida’s Department of Children and Families, Child Protection teams, and the like.
If law enforcement does not do its job…..then the wrongfully accused Defendant needs to do it for them. Bradley Perron and Investigative Support Specialist, Inc., (www.brandonperron.com) have been providing intensive and thorough investigative work in the Treasure Coast for over two (2) decades. Brad is a member of the executive council of the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council (CDITI), and is a Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator.
Ann Dell Duncan-Hively is a shareholder of Duncan Hively Psychological Services, located in St. Louis, Missouri. (http://duncanhively.com/) As both a Ph.D. Psychologist and Juris Doctor Attorney, she has the unique ability to provide expert testimony in a variety of areas, especially the current, up-to-the-minute science on the issue of suggestibility of children during forensic interviewing. These interviews, oftentimes conducted by State-paid, ill-trained, and biased “forensic interviewers”, can contaminate a child’s memory to the point of the child actually believing something that has never occurred.
In this case, A.M. had the foresight to select the right lawyers to represent him, to be sure. But the lawyers were only part of a ‘team’ of dedicated professionals who were able to insure that ultimately, the jury reached a just and proper verdict.
A.M.’s case is a prime example of a legal system that everyone recognizes is not only the best in the world-but one that is flawed, and that can, under the right circumstances, result in an innocent man spending the rest of his life in prison.
This time, the truth and the criminal justice system won out. And all of us are richer for the result.