Santa Clara, CA–“Prosecutors said the trove of tapes came to light after medical experts hired by two convicted defendants belatedly discovered videotapes in their cases and concluded they contradicted medical findings that sexual abuse had occurred.
“In those cases the new evidence proved crucial — one conviction has been overturned, and the second is in jeopardy…
“Though prosecutors downplay the significance of the tapes, experts for the defense say the videotapes could make a huge difference in child sex-abuse cases that rest heavily on medical evidence. Sometimes the allegations come years after the alleged incidents, making the search for physical trauma like scars, tearing or notching on the hymen or anus that much more challenging.
“Additionally, in many cases children recant their accusations before trial — so medical evidence is even more critical.”
Agustin Uribe”s conviction for sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl was overturned by California”s Sixth Court of Appeals last year. Why? The San Jose Mercury News reports that the hospital at which the girl was examined maintained a videotape of the examination which showed that no abuse had occurred. Read the story here.
Now it develops that the hospital has some 3,000 newly-found videotapes of similar examinations in child abuse cases since 1991. As you might expect, defense attorneys in pending and closed cases are seeking access to those tapes.
So far we don”t know what was on the tape in the Uribe case that caused his conviction to be overturned. We also don”t know what, if anything, other tapes will reveal, but we should know soon. One defense attorney has already brought up the specter of the McMartin Pre-School case in which blatant fraud was used to accuse teachers of the most bizarre acts of child sexual and physical abuse. The methods used in that case to elicit false allegations from very young children have become the standard for what not to do in determining whether a child has been abused.
The Mercury News article suggests that Mary Ritter, coordinator of the Center for Child Protection at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center may be at the center of this controversy. An expert witness in a second case has said that his review of the videotape “clearly contradicts Mary Ritter’s conclusion” that sexual abuse occurred.
These videotapes have the potential to overturn a great number of abuse convictions. That”s important enough, but they also may open a window on the ways the children in those cases are treated by authorities. Were they allowed to tell their stories honestly? Or were they manipulated into telling falsehoods by adults bent on incarcerating the accused at all costs?
Stay tuned and find out.
Thanks to Kevin, a reader, for sending it.