"There are days
you feel everyone in the world is
doing this to their kids. You have
to remember that we're here
and we're helping."
So said Ms. Fiona Stephenson, a social worker at
That same year, 2000, she was the assessor in the case Sauceda vs.
According to the 2003 appeal Sauceda's sisters, after "repeatedly questioning" each girl, and after numerous denials, finally got them to agree (beginning with the youngest) that they had all been assaulted by their uncle. If you want to read how the children were TOTALLY NOT COERCED into accusing their invalid uncle, who at the time was not even able to feed himself, check here:
Sauceda was arrested and indicted on three counts of sexual assault, but the state decided only to proceed with the case involving the 9 year old.
The girl, M.S., was interviewed by Fiona Stephenson at the Children's
The interview with Stephenson was taped, so the defense had proof that M.S. had said nothing about any weapons being used in her original interview. This might have been a powerful tool for the defense to use, but if they showed that part of the tape, the court ruled that they must show the entire interview, which referenced the other, previous charges (you know, the ones the state decided to drop). Whether M.S. revealed actual criminal acts or was making things up is never addressed.
The defense council hoped to bring in Stephenson to testify instead of playing the tape, but the court ruled that if the defense brought in Stephenson, the Prosecution would be allowed to show the tape in it's entirety, allowing the jury to hear about two other alleged crimes that the prosecution itself had decided not to pursue. This decision was later brought before the Texas Court of Appeals, and eventually overturned.
Here we have two issues. The first is, it looks like M.S. was either making things up on the stand, or for some reason she felt more comfortable revealing violent coercion in a room full of strangers than she did while talking to the social worker or even her mother & aunt. Embellishing a story on the fly is something kids do everyday; adults should be able to recognize when they're doing this. A kid wants to make up monsters to get you to believe that he should be allowed to sleep on the couch with the TV on? Not a big deal. A kid wants to pull knives and guns out of the air to please their mother, while sending a man to prison? That might be a big deal, anywhere outside of a Harris County Criminal Court room.
The second is, the defendant was effectively denied the use of potentially exculpatory evidence because of the faulty interviewing technique of the nurse, and the REFUSAL of the court to allow the defense to present that same evidence without the contaminating extras.
Anyway, I'm up to my armpits in legalese that I barely understand, and I don't really care about the Sauceda case. The court moved to start a 'harm analysis', which I can't find a copy of online but presumably that's where they get to decide if their cock-up caused the trial to go badly for the accused (in this case, convicted). A search of the Harris County District Clerk's website doesn't turn up any information on Sauceda's Agg Sex Assault case, so maybe they realized they couldn't get away with this one and went into full on ass-covering mode.
The real point here, as pertains to Coy vs.
In an unpublished [*2] opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling. Sauceda v. State, No. 14-01-00408-CR, 2002