When one person accuses another person of any criminal activity, a criminal complaint is filed or, in some cases, an indictment is obtained directly. Regardless of the initial procedure, the accuser is a complaining witness. Prosecutors call the complaining witness a “victim,” but we shun that term in most cases. The term “victim” presupposes the person actually suffered harm. Whether the person’s allegations are true or false is for a jury or judge to decide, not the prosecuting attorney.
If competent, credible evidence supports the complaining witness’s allegation that something happened and the assailant’s identity is at issue, we call that person a victim. Frequently jilted lovers, angry relatives or other adults with an axe to grind, coerce children into making false allegations. We call those children victims too, but we are clear to point out that the child has not been sexually victimized, but mentally victimized.
When a sex crime case comes into The Law Office of Brian Jones, the first point of order is to investigate the complaining witness. The government’s case often rises and falls on the credibility of the complaining witness. Friends, relatives and neighbors have insight into the complaining witness’s reputation for truthfulness, habits and mannerisms. From a reputation as a habitual liar to a short temper, any information about the complaining witness will help develop the total picture of the allegation.
Not only must the complaining witness be investigated, but the investigators themselves must also be vetted. From the review of personnel files to sorting through prior cases and collected works of the investigating officer, The Law Office of Brian Jones’s attorneys will make sure the person investigating your case is a fair officer. If s/he is not, we will find the bias, the skeletons, the misconduct and we will use it to your advantage at every stage of the proceeding. Our office has discovered officers whose misconduct ranges from lying to supervising officers all the way to illicit sexual affairs while on duty. The prosecutor’s hard line against reasonable negotiations softens significantly when the investigating officer’s misconduct demonstrates her/his dishonesty.
False allegations, and the witnesses that support them deserve a thorough probing. The thorough investigation and fact checking that goes into vetting complaining witnesses and investigating officers must be carried through each and every witness involved in the case. Health care workers conducting sexual assault examinations often have a history of exaggerating or fabricating findings. So-called forensic “scientists” have been known to fabricate college credentials and field accreditation. Fact witnesses often have a reason to be biased in favor of one side over the other. Each person the state intends to call in an effort to label you a sex offender and send you to prison must be vetted for truthfulness in all areas of their lives. When the right person starts digging in the right areas, the truth comes out eventually.
All attorneys read incident reports and witness statements. The vast majority will watch video recorded statements. Many will investigate the state’s witnesses, though all too often few will be as thorough as they should. Even fewer actually go to the evidence room and put eyes and hands on the physical evidence the prosecution intends to place before the jury. From stained sheets and underwear to diaries and digital storage devices, every piece of evidence has the potential to tell two stories. Each item should be inspected. Occasionally, law enforcement loses the items. Frequently the investigating officer’s statement misconstrues the appearance of physical evidence in sexual assault cases.
A personal trip to the location of the alleged rape, sexual assault, sexual battery or other sex crime in Ohio can often be the critical moment in case preparation. Witnesses can recount facts accurately but fail to mention critical matters like a room’s acoustics or lines of sight. Locations have a presence, a feeling about them. In order to bring the jury into the story, the scene must be described in vivid detail. To demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the case, your sex crime lawyer should be able to give the jury that vivid detail. Without it, the story becomes cold, the jury becomes detached and you become a sex offender registrant. An attorney from our office will go to the scene if at all possible, photograph it and interview those nearby.