When I started researching, obviously I began by looking into Coy’s trial; I believed it must have been an anomaly, something unusual that could be explained by some particular quirk of his case. This expanded into a look at the prosecutors, the judge, and eventually the district attorney of the time.
My worldview was challenged at every step; I had great faith in the justice system, especially as it pertained to those accused of sex crimes. It wasn’t until several months in that I could even begin to grasp how widespread and deeply-entrenched the problems in our system are.
I don’t claim to understand them, or what causes them, but I can give you a few examples of the environment that existed then, and continues to this day. These cases are mostly from Houston, but you can find many others from all over Texas on this blog. Generally posts that have a person’s name as the title are stories of exonerations:
2003: Josiah Sutton is released after serving four years for a rape that he was exonerated of by DNA testing.
2006: Gilbert Amezquita, convicted of a 1998 rape after a judge refused to allow DNA testing that could have proved him innocent, is released from prison. It became apparent that another Gilbert, gilbert Guerrero, had actually committed the attack.
2006: Charges against Brandy Briggs were dropped after she spent five years in prison for the murder of her child; the prosecution admitted that, with new evidence of mistakes by the doctors, evidence of a birth defect that excacerbated a bacterial infection, and without the trumped-up autopsy report from a medical examiner with a history of incorrect work, they had no case.
2007: Ronald Taylor is exonerated after serving 14 years for a rape he did not commit.
2011: Dale Lincoln Duke was exonerated after serving 14 years; he was wrongfully convicted of molesting his 7 year-old step-daughter.
2011: Tony Hall was formally exonerated after serving every day of a fifteen year sentence for the molestation of a child that he did not commit.
These are only a few of the cases covered here, which are a small sample of cases all over Texas and throughout the nation, in which men and women were wrongfully convicted.
The science of proving molestation without concrete physical evidence or solid testimony is sketchy, at best. Very little proof of expertise is required, and the statements they make seem to be questioned only rarely, and then usually after a conviction has been achieved. Prosecutors, judges, and the general public pile on, eager to see wrong-doers punished.
I don’t believe that anyone could claim that this comes from a bad place; we love our children, and we want to see them protected. A crime against one child reminds of us of how vulnerable our own families are, how easily their innocence can be threatened. I don’t think I could put it any better than this:
“In the arena of child sexual abuse allegations there is, therefore, a particular opportunity for the desire to exhibit "good intentions" to overshadow the need for objective, consistent, and ongoing dynamic tension which exists societally with regards to the question of whether child sexual abuse occurs and, if so, how prevalent it is. This debate also goes on in the realms of law, psychology, and throughout the child protective services network. To the extent that moral panic creates a generic prejudice against those merely accused of child sexual abuse (Vidmar, 1997), it must be accounted for in any competent investigation of allegations.”
Taint hearings are an effort on the part of the government to prevent this misplaced, but well-intentioned aggression. You can read about them here:
I don’t claim to have a solution; those who victimize children must be punished; but when public anger at true child molesters sweeps up the innocent they end up in the prison system, waiting for justice.