Sex crimes charges are very serious – is the jury impartial?

When someone is accused of a serious crime, the details matter and it’s crucial to separate facts from feelings. But when it comes to defending individuals accused of sex crimes, defense attorneys must work very hard to make sure that the jury can both hear and listen to the facts of the case before rendering a verdict.

A case in Missouri is a good example of what at first appeared to be a very serious crime. In 2011, a man was arrested while on a business trip and staying at a hotel. He came back to the hotel in the middle of the night, very drunk, and crawled into bed in what he thought was his room. He later asserted that the lights were out and he thought the person in bed with him was a woman brought back by one of his drinking buddies.

The hotel had given him the wrong room key by mistake. In bed was a 9-year-old girl. Some sort of physical contact happened between the man and the girl before she screamed and ran to find her parents in the adjoining room.

The girl claimed he had inappropriately touched her, and the man was charged with three counts of child molestation and a single count of sodomy. Earlier this month, the man was acquitted on all charges.

The interrogation of the defendant some eight hours after the incident was videotaped. He still looked visibly intoxicated and confused, and a blood test around that time showed he had a blood-alcohol level of nearly 0.08 percent. It would have been three times higher at the time of the incident.

The detective interviewing him did so for three hours and the man had been awake for about 27 hours at that point. In the video, he can be seen nodding to suggestions of what happened made by the detective. Based on these non-verbal cues the detective essentially asserted in the police report that the man had admitted to the crime.

The defense attorney questioned the detective about this, and the answer he gave was “[the defendant] didn’t say he didn’t.” Jurors took only three hours to deliver a complete acquittal.

To be sure, the incident was probably very traumatic for the little girl and her parents. But did the defendant’s actions demonstrate criminal intent, never mind criminal intent worthy of at least 10 years in prison? The answer, thanks to the defense attorney, now appears to be a resounding “no.”

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Jurors acquit man of molesting girl at Ritz-Carlton in Clayton,” Jennifer S. Mann, April 28, 2014

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