Shannon Smith and Gail Benson represent clients accused of sex crimes. This does not just mean that we handle sex cases. We focus on sex crimes because they are difficult cases that involve complicated areas of law and psychology. Our firm keeps current on the latest research and science about child psychology and development, how memory works, suggestive interviewing techniques, forensic interviewing, sex offender profiling and how false allegations are made. We do not need to rely on our expert witnesses to teach us everything as we go. By staying current on the latest research and studies independently, we are able to more effectively represent our clients and do more for our clients than most lawyers who do not focus on sex crimes.
Here is an example of one strategy we use that other lawyers frequently overlook. It is common knowledge among criminal defense attorneys that the Courts do not allow an expert to testify about a person’s sex offender profile. This means that in a criminal sexual conduct case, lawyers are not allowed to use experts to testify about whether their client fits the profile of a sex offender. Many lawyers stop at this point. Most lawyers do not realize that there is a Michigan case that explicitly allows testimony regarding common behaviors of adults who sexually abuse children. Even though the profile testimony is not allowed, lawyers can still present testimony about grooming behaviors of child molesters. Further, the lawyer can present evidence to show that the client did not act consistently with the actions typically taken by a child molester.
Why is this important when defending sex crimes? This defense strategy is critical because many people who are falsely accused do not exhibit any of the common behaviors of adults who sexually abuse children. By showing the jury how child molesters operate and showing the jury that the client does not exhibit any of the common behaviors, it provides the jury with another tool to find the person not guilty. If you are accused of child molestation or sexually abusing a child that you were close to, ask your attorney if they intend to introduce evidence that you are not a child molester. If they do not realize this is permissible material for trial, you need to find a different lawyer.
Even though many lawyers out there contend that this type of testimony is not a possibility, in People v. Ackerman, 257 Mich App 434, 450 (2003), the Michigan Court of Appeals found that most "citizen-jurors lack direct knowledge of or experience with the typical forms of conduct engaged in by adults who sexually abuse children." The Court concluded that testimony regarding patterns of behavior exhibited by child sexual abuse offenders would aid the jury. Many general practitioners simply overlook strategies like this one when defending a sex crime.
We plan to post a follow-up article soon explaining how child molesters typically operate to gain trust with children, groom them and then sexually abuse them. If you have been accused of a sex crime or criminal sexual conduct and would like a consultation with Shannon Smith or Gail Benson, please call today.