Tuesday, September 14, 2010

80 Percent of Child Victims Recant Sexual Assault If Unsupported By Mother

Chavez v. State

In this case, a child (12 year-old girl) and her mother initially reported (and testified at a preliminary hearing or in a recorded interview) that Appellant sexually assaulted the child on numerous occasions.  Appellant also admitted to the assault during an interview with an investigator, which was admitted at trial.  During the trial, however, the mother recanted her previous testimony, stating that she was simply trying to get back at her husband for cheating on her.  The child victim followed her mother's lead and also recanted, stating that she and her mother made it all up.  The State then brought an expert of child victims (the Program Director for the Children's Advocacy Center in Midland) who testified over defense objection that:
if a child who has made an outcry of sexual abuse has an unsupportive moter, there is about an eighty percent chance that the child will recant that outcry.
Using the prior recorded statements of the Appellant, the mother, and the child victim, the jury convicted Appellant and sentenced him to 14 years confinement and a $7,000 fine.  The 11th Court affirmed the case on appeal, holding that:
[The expert] did not offer a direct opinion that L.C. was truthful in her initial outcry of sexual abuse or that L.C. belonged to a class of persons that was truthful or worthy of belief.  Nor did [the expert] offer testimony that L.C. was not truthful in her trial testimony. Instead, [the expert] testified about the behavioral characteristics of children whose mothers do not support their outcries of sexual abuse. Maria did not support L.C.’s outcry of sexual abuse. [The expert] said that, in such cases, there is about an eighty percent chance that a child complainant will recant. [The expert]’s testimony was admissible to assist the jury in assessing L.C.’s testimony. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant’s motion for mistrial.