The successful defense of child crimes such as Serious Bodily Injury (such as shaken baby syndrome or Sexual Assault of a Child are among the most complicated cases to defend. If you are charged with this type of offense, you need an attorney experienced in defending this particular type of case. You may also need forensic experts for your defense, which an experienced attorney will be able to determine. Finally, if convicted, these types of cases result in very long sentences and the experienced attorney will know how to properly protect the record for an appeal.
But up front, before we even begin our defense, we have to contend with the fact that any decent human being’s heart goes out to an abused child and is predisposed to righteous, understandable anger at the accused. This is because children are innocent. And the younger the child, the more innocent they are. It can never be alleged, argued, or even thought that any child victim got what was coming to him or deserved it. But beyond this initial prejudicial hurdle, the evidence issues in these cases are manifold. They can be difficult to identify and often require a special expertise beyond the ability of the criminal defense attorney to analyze – once identified.
There is a whole body of scientific research dealing with child abuse and this research can play a key part in the defense of the defendant. Some of these studies are valid but some are junk science which is where experts come in – they can distinguish between the two and can rebut any State experts who attempt to use flawed research studies. To give only one example, the science behind DNA evidence, used to convict in sexual assault allegations, is very complex but if understood and presented properly at trial it can be key to acquitting an innocent defendant.
Medical records are another complex area and we know how to deal with them. Child injury cases are very records intensive and require an attorney who has at least a basic knowledge in reading and interpreting medical records. Often we have to issue subpoenas which include the proper HIPAA authorizations and protections before we can even get our hands on some key records. Besides the medical records relating to the actual injury and treatment, it is important that we also subpoena the child’s prenatal records and birth records, which may show congenital conditions (25% to 50% of babies are born with slight intracranial hemorrhages), all pediatrician records, daycare records, and even vaccine records as many vaccines have been shown to have an adverse effect on small children and can produce subdural bleeding which mimics the hemorrhages found in shaken baby syndrome.
Particularly in child sexual assault cases where the incident happened years in the past – which is a not at all uncommon case scenario – the State will rely upon the outcry witness (the person the alleged victim told the incident about years later) and psychologists who have interviewed a now-adolescent complainant. By this time – years later – there is either no physical evidence or what does exist is inconclusive. In this type of years-old child sexual assault case we need special bolsters to our defense: a psychologist who understands and can testify to memory issues – such as how memories can be suggested, implanted, and corrupted over time, as well as a medical practitioner with experience in sexual assault medical evidence.
That the child’s injuries were accidental and not intentional is a key defense in many cases. In many types of injuries we can prove whether they were accidental or intentional by using the medical records, photos, and x-rays / scans, and if necessary a medical bio-mechanical engineer. For internal injuries that led to death, esp. where the evidence shows a series of injuries over time, the forensics become even more specialized. After the forensic medical examiner determines the origin of injuries and cause of death, we can use a bio-mechanical forensic pathologist to testify on the mechanism of the injury and the forces necessary to produce it. For instance, while State pediatricians will testify to impossible forces having been exerted on a child by a defendant and that shaking can cause death, a bio-mechanical forensic pathologist will demonstrate that has not been scientifically proven and that a 3 ft. fall will produce a much greater force than anyone can possibly create by shaking.
Expert Witnesses in Child Abuse Cases
Good defense experts are especially important in our trial cases. This is because the State, with its almost unlimited resources, will have at its fingertips an army of testifying experts, such as pediatricians who are board certified in diagnosing child abuse. (Sometimes “trained to see child abuse in every injury”.) The testimony of such authoritative figures carries great weight in the eyes of the jury whom we can refute by explaining that they are more like biased “hired guns” and that many of the studies they rely on in their passionate testimony are seriously flawed. We look for alternate explanations to the injuries such as congenital conditions, falls from a low height, infection, and other disorders which we try to uncover through records. A detailed history of the child’s days previous to the incident which he died from or which brought him to the hospital is extremely important as well. It is assumed, often erroneously, that the person with the child when he died or suffered the crisis was the one inflicting the abuse. With a detailed history other possible causes of the injury can be brought to light. Many childhood head injury cases that are ultimately fatal do not result in death immediately but only after some time has elapsed; again, investigating the child’s history in the days prior to the death or crisis can point to another complicit individual and exonerate our client.
Most pediatricians and all child abuse advocates are trained to default to abuse in the presence of certain types of injuries. But researchers have proven that children can and do sustain these types of injuries from accidents or genetic disorders. This is why finding the right attorney is critical to the outcome of a child bodily injury or sexual assault case. A good attorney will know the various defenses to be used, will obtain and argue the evidence, will litigate the case at trial if he can’t get it dismissed, will protect the record for appeal [if client is convicted], and can find the right expert to testify on facts rather than on the unproven theories and flawed scientific research used by most State experts.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Child Abuse Charges
If you are being charged with child abuse in Houston, Harris County, or surrounding areas contact Carl Haggard by email or call (832) 328-0600 for a free confidential consultation regarding your case. Carl has over 30 years of experience defending the accused against child abuse charges and will immediately begin fighting for you to provide the best defense possible in your case.