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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Assessment Interview

When HPD sent their letter to the AG’s office asking them not to release the police report to the public, they made a special point of saying that if the ‘investigative methods’ used were known it would compromise the case. While I have different theories about what they meant, here is what I suspect they were trying to hide.

When the Children’s Assessment Center begins treating a child who they believe to have been abused, they do an interview. This interview is taped, and can be used as evidence in the eventual court case. You may remember the story of Colleen Taft, who was more concerned with gathering evidence for the prosecution than with really caring for the children she interviewed.

We know that Denise Oncken, by her own admission, seems to prefer to allow defense lawyers to ‘discover’ these tapes on their own, instead of handing them over as required by law. After all, it’s ‘not her job to hold their hands’.

In Coy’s case, the child was interviewed by Fiona Stephenson, an interviewer who had already got a paraplegic who couldn’t even feed himself locked up for supposedly molesting three girls. ALSO in the room was Heidi Ruiz, the investigating officer who was so biased against Coy that the appeals court made a special mention of it in the 2007 appeal denial. Possibly in the room was Susan Szczygielski, a therapist who according to her own statements in court did not believe in the possibility that nothing had happened, but I’m having trouble tracking down some documents verifying her presence.

I have included links to several guidelines for doing sexual assault interviews. They are long, but worth the read. They all stress how important it is to 1) keep an open mind, because there might have been no abuse at all and 2) not ask ‘leading’ questions, which are questions that encourage a specific answer. Why is this important? Because children, especially those younger than 11, are very susceptible to suggestion. With enough prodding, they can be lead to believe that they were abused, even if they were not. This belief can last all the way into adulthood. If you doubt this, check out the Daycare Sex Abuse Hysteria. Some of those people are STILL in prison.
Obviously an assessment interview is a very delicate thing. Why the hell would you have the investigator in charge of a case present for it? Kids can pick up on little things, a shake of the head, a smile when they answer the way they are ‘supposed’ to answer…Why would you risk tainting the interview with the presence of a person that’s being paid to find proof of a certain outcome?
Well, according to documents available at the District Clerk’s website, Officer Ruiz had a little pre-interview-interview at the police station. She interviewed the child, apparently all by herself, a few days before the interview at the CAC. Was THAT interview recorded? Probably not.
 See CARLOS COY, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee NO. 01-02-00593-CR
Had she already formed her opinions about the case at that time? Had she been trained in the delicate art of getting information without creating ideas in a child’s mind? Was this addressed at all during the trial?

A description of the CAC from the American Academy of Pediatrics website indicates that they assist…”District Attorneys, Children's Ad Litem attorneys, family attorney, CASA volunteers”…but there is no mention of defense attorneys. Did they turn over information to the defense, or did they leave that up to the prosecuting attorneys? How can a defense team ever be sure that the prosecutor has fulfilled the requirement to turn over exculpatory evidence?

1 comment:

Vor Lady said...

Interesting read. You've done your homework.