Taint: A Question of Reliability, Not Credibility or Competence

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Friday, December 28th, 2012
Taint: A Question of Reliability, Not Credibility or Competence

Isn’t it interesting how the courts recognize taint in so many different contexts?1 We have an illegal search by the police and everything found during the illegal search becomes “fruit of the poisonous tree”—it is said to be tainted. The Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab does not observe proper sterile procedures in handling DNA and the specimens are contaminated—they are said to be tainted. We have a lineup where the crime victim sees one White guy, three Hispanics, and two Blacks. The identification of the White guy is said to be tainted, the product of a suggestive or improper lineup.

A victim of a crime has no conscious recollection of the events or details, is hypnotized and, while hypnotized, is presented with questions that suggest answers. Upon regaining consciousness, the victim “remembers” details of the crime. The courts recognize the problems inherent in this type of enhanced “recollection.” So this “recollection” is subject to being excluded because it is tainted—the product of suggestion.

But how differently the courts in Texas treat the “recollection” of children, even very young children, who are said to have been abused, sexually abused, or even sexually assaulted —especially when there is no evidence of the alleged crime other than the child’s statement and the crime is alleged to have occurred months or even years ago. Children’s memory is deemed to be pristine and incorruptible, no matter how many different people may have discussed their recollection with them and no matter how many different people may have suggested details to the children, in how many different settings, on how many different occasions, or for how long on each occasion.

And it doesn’t matter that none of these conversations or interviews or counseling sessions have been recorded in a neutral media so that improper interview techniques can be identified and the implanted results of those techniques challenged. Again, young children’s memory is deemed to be pristine and incorruptible, even though no such presumption exists with a teenager’s or an adult’s memory. Remember the advertising slogan: “Is it real? Or is it Memorex®?” Well, the same logic applies when it comes to a young child’s supposed recollection.

The corruption of a young child’s recollection affects not only their testimony but also any “outcry” statement2 that the State may try to use. In this article, the authors will attempt to define the problem and suggest ways to deal with the same.

Please understand that for the most part, this concerns the recollection of children who are under the age of 7—in other words, children who are not old enough to really understand the concept of a lie. Consider that a child who learns that Santa Claus is not real, that it was Mommy and Daddy all along, does not understand that Mommy and Daddy lied about Santa Claus existing. Please also understand that the age of seven is an arbitrary break point, created by the authors for the purpose of this article. Some experts will be more exacting with older kids versus younger kids, but there is no clear, bright-line demarcation. The younger the children, the more susceptible they are to the many ways in which memory can be tainted, but the principles apply along a continuum. Research going back to Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries shows much the same results and conclusions as today’s research, even though the children then under examination were 10 years old or even older. In fact, in the Salem Witch trials, children as old as 16 were convinced by their interviewers that they saw several women in their community perform acts that were supernatural—e.g., levitating.3

Of course, we will still have “repressed memory” cases from adults like in Sandusky and other cases. Those cases present similar issues as to the reliability of the testimony of young children, but the science and the research are different.4 And the motivation to testify falsely in such a case tends to belong to the “victim” instead of to a third person attempting to get a child to testify falsely. It is easy to conceive how a young adult might be motivated by the prospect of making large sums of money from a civil suit—a motivation that doesn’t exist for the “victim” when the testifying “victim” is 2–7 years old.

For the article to be relevant, the authors felt that they should look at what kind of case comprises the bulk of prosecutions. Usually it is a pre-adolescent child making an outcry about something that happened at some point in the past. Those cases are more numerous than younger children making outcries contemporaneous with the alleged event.

Conversely, children above the age of seven are old enough to understand the concept of a lie, but they may be, or become, active participants in the lie without knowing or comprehending the consequences of the words they say. Children under seven understand neither. So while the science involved with older children is similar to that with young children, it is sufficiently different that you will need to use different experts, depending on the age of the child.

And this article also does not deal with cases where there is unequivocal physical evidence of abuse—e.g., an STD that the defendant also tests positive for. The article presupposes that you, as defense counsel, not only have the evidence that the child has been subjected to multiple conversations/interrogations/interviews/counseling sessions, but that you also have an expert who is competent to present the science to the court.

Under no circumstances should a taint hearing be requested to try to obtain discovery. This will not only damage your expert through trying to give an opinion with an incomplete foundation and cause your expert to become the prosecution’s best witness; it can also lead to the creation of more bad case law. While there may be something worse than your expert having to concede on cross-examination that there is not sufficient evidence to support the defendant’s contention that the child’s memory is tainted, that something does not come to the authors’ mind.5

Remember and understand that when you try to challenge the recollection of a child as being tainted, you will run into several fallacies or flaws that are endemic within the Texas courts.

The first fallacy or flaw is that judges and DAs will attempt to re-frame your argument as going to the competence of the child to testify. You cannot allow yourself to fall into this trap.

Why? First, Rule 601 of the Rules of Evidence creates a presumption that a person is competent to testify.6 The trial court has no duty to conduct a preliminary competency examination on its own motion.7 This means that you have to file a motion challenging the competence of the child to testify. Even if you expect to lose the motion, you should file it.

Once the competency of a child witness is challenged, the trial court must assure itself that the child has (1) the ability to intelligently observe the events in question at the time of the occurrence, (2) the capacity to recollect the events, and (3) the capacity to narrate the events.8 The third element, involving the capacity to narrate, requires that the witness is able to understand the questions asked, frame intelligent answers to those questions, and understand the moral responsibility to tell the truth.9 And the trial court’s determination of whether a child witness is competent to testify and its ruling on the issue will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion.10

But the child witness’ Rule 601 competence to testify is not the issue. The issue is the one of competency as it relates to personal knowledge, not whether the child is capable of testifying and reliability. Let us give you an example to illustrate this point—an example from a deposition taken in a case in Tarrant County.11 The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of Tarrant County had sued Joe A. Izen Jr. for assisting in the unauthorized practice of law. During discovery, it turned out that no one on the committee knew where the complaint came from or who was going to testify against Joe Izen—but if anyone did, it was the lawyer who was the head of the committee. His was the last deposition taken. During his deposition, he testified that the source of the information (that Joe A. Izen Jr. had assisted in the unauthorized practice of law) was psychic phenomena. Yes, psychic phenomena!12

Was the head of the committee—again a lawyer—able to intelligently observe the events in question at the time of the occurrence, capable of recalling the events, and capable of narrating the events? The answer to all of these questions was yes.

But the lawyer’s testimony was not reliable. Why? Because not only do the courts not recognize ouija boards as a source of admissible evidence; there is simply no way to cross-examine a ouija board. Or a ghost. Or tarot cards. Or any of the myriad other possible sup­posed manifestations of psy­chic phenomena.

Some might argue that the question presented is a Rule 602, Tex. R. Evid., question and not a reliability question. The authors disagree because the courts recognize ways in which one can remotely acquire information (knowledge). An example of that would be a security guard watching a video monitor when a crime is committed. Say that the recording system malfunctions. In such a situation, would the security guard be allowed to testify as to what he saw on the monitor? Absolutely. That testimony is reliable. And it is not a question of competence.

So when a young child can distinguish between a red card and a blue card, and “knows that you get in trouble” if you tell a lie, that does not end the inquiry. Nor is that the only inquiry. In fact, the authors are only aware of one case where a young child who was allegedly sexually abused was found to be incompetent to testify.13

Why does that not end the inquiry? Well, let’s consider a hypothetical five-year-old who has (1) the ability to intelligently observe the events in question at the time of the occurrence, (2) the capacity to recollect the events, and (3) the capacity to narrate the events. Now, let’s assume that this five-year-old is being asked to testify about who left the presents under the Christmas tree that he found on December 25. He’s got a lot of circumstantial evidence that it was Santa Claus. And he knows all about Santa Claus—what he wears, who makes the toys, how he flies around the world, etc. But will he be allowed to testify that it was Santa Claus who left the presents?

No, he won’t. Because his recollection is not reliable. Now, this is an innocent example of implantation of a false memory. But it shows the difference between competence and reliability of the recollection—a difference we will address in more detail below.

And you need to be aware of the growing body of research regarding the implantation of false memories. Some of this research is set forth in Endnote 14. You need to be familiar with this body of literature.

The second fallacy or flaw is the belief that there must be coercion used to create a false memory in a young child. Well, not only does a child’s “knowledge” that Santa Claus exists dispel that belief; so does all of the scientific literature.14 Indeed, scientific research has shown that a memory can be implanted in a young child in as little as 20 seconds—without coercion!

Unfortunately, most judges and prosecutors think or are under the mistaken belief that coercion must be used in order for a memory to be implanted in a child. They for­get, or ignore, the myriad other factors that can affect what a child tells you.

These factors include the desire of the child to please the adult. Repeating a question after a child answers will make the child assume that it has answered incorrectly, and the child will, therefore, change its answer. A question that suggests an answer will usually elicit that suggested answer. An “or” question that is answered with a “yes,” followed by a specific fact-stated question will usually get the child to adopt the specific fact stated.

And it is precisely because of this effect that you should move to have the Court require that all meetings, interviews, sessions, counseling sessions, etc., with the child be recorded in a neutral media. You should include a request that all meetings with anyone in the DA’s office be recorded in a neutral media.15 Your argument should be that this is Brady material—potentially exculpatory or useable for impeachment.

Expect the State to oppose any such motion and to oppose it vehemently. The DA will announce with great emphasis that he and his employees don’t coerce any child or taint any child’s testimony or recollection. And the DA thereby ignores all of the science in this field.

An example of how easy it is to implant a memory, or to get a child to agree with something stated by an adult, occurred during the one of the authors’ defense of a 17-year-old juvenile who was facing 4 petitions that alleged aggravated sexual assault of 3 girls, aged 2–4 at the time of the alleged sexual assaults and aged 7–9 at the time of trial. The prosecutor repeatedly told the judge, and then the jury, that she and her office had not implanted any memories in these girls, that they had not coerced any testimony, and so on. The prosecutor’s argument ignored the fact that taint can occur without malice, coercion, or evil intent. Taint can occur through otherwise innocent actions or even genuine or mistaken beliefs. It does not have to come from someone who has something to gain, although it can.16

Then, on direct examination of the 7-year-old, the prosecutor asked the following question: “When Bobby walked into the bathroom, were you taking a bath or a shower?” Surprise! A totally new allegation, one not found anywhere in the multiple forensic interviews, in the counseling records, or in the outcry statement of this child. Nowhere!

The child’s answer was, “Yes.” But, yes to what? Bath or shower?

Well, the DA provided that information in the next question. “When you were taking a shower and Bobby walked in to the bathroom, was the shower curtain closed?” “Yes.” “What did Bobby do then?” And she went from there, adding more and more details. On an “event” that had never come up before the DA’s question.

Not surprisingly, every time the DA asked if that was all that Bobby had done, the complainant was able to conjure up more details—details that, when put in the total context, showed how impossible this event was. But all conjured up out of a desire to please the adult who was asking the questions.

Of course, these questions and the “answers” elicited demonstrate why you, as defense counsel, should be prepared to vigorously oppose any request by the DA for a “little leeway” in questioning the child complainant. The “leeway” that the DA is asking for is the ability to lead the child and the right to repeat the questions when the “correct” answer is not elicited.17

Fortunately for Bobby, during the recounting of details, the complainant said that Bobby was holding his penis with both hands. A 12-year-old holding his penis with both hands! On cross-examination, the 7-year-old was asked about how Bobby held his penis with both hands, whether it was one hand over the other or whether it was fingertip to fingertip. “Oh, it was fingertip to fingertip.” That answer was reinforced and then she was asked details about how much of the penis was above Bobby’s hands and how much was below. To say that a horse would have been jealous with envy is an understatement.18

But that is how very easy it is to implant memories in a child, or to get a child to go along with something an adult has stated. And having the court reporter transcribe those few pages so they could be read back to the jury conclusively demonstrated to the jury that coercion and force are not required to implant memories in young children. It was the gift that kept on giving.19

And this case is also an example of having the appropriate experts testify. While both experts were psychologists, one expert was able to testify to the science as related to what was done with and to the girls when the allegations first surfaced, in other words, when they were 2–4 years old. But this expert did not have a clinical practice or deal with children who were 7 years old or older. The other psychologist had a clinical practice, dealing with children as young as 7, and was very familiar with the science relating to corruption of recollection, the suggestibility of these aged children, and factors that could affect the reliability of their recollection. This psychologist was also able to opine how dangerous it was to have children this young on psychotropic medications. The expertise and experience of the two experts dovetailed perfectly to cover the entire time period and all of the factors that could influence the reliability of what the girls were saying. If you have one expert who can cover all of the science and facts involved in your case, then you can get by with one expert. But by all means, make sure that your expert can do so. Otherwise get the right number of experts for your case, making sure they have the appropriate experience and qualifications.

The third fallacy or flaw is that judges and DAs will attempt to re-frame your argument as going to the credibility, and that credibility is for the jury to decide. You cannot allow yourself to fall into this trap, either.

Why? Because credibility20 has nothing to do with the reliability of the testimony. Consider the Houston case of Josiah Sutton. Josiah was convicted of rape and sentenced to 25 years in prison.21 The rape victim was convinced that Josiah Sutton had raped her. She was very credible—so much so that then Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal threatened to re-try Josiah, because he had the eyewitness’ testimony. But regardless of her credibility (believability), the DNA proved that, as to Josiah Sutton, her testimony was completely unreliable. And ultimately, he was not retried.

Reliability is the issue—the only issue—that is involved when you challenge a child’s recollection. And you must not allow the judge or the DA to shift the focus of your challenge.

Reliability is a threshold issue that must be determined by the judge.22 Reliability is not an issue that can be determined by the jury. Consider all of the cases under Rule 702, Tex. R. Evid., where the expert’s opinion (testimony) is challenged. Every single case holds that it is the court’s (judge’s) duty to determine the reliability of the opinion (testimony).

The court has a responsibility to ensure that evidence admitted at trial is sufficiently reliable so that it may be of use to the finder of fact who will draw the ultimate conclusions of guilt or innocence. That concern implicates principles of constitutional due process and due course of law. Reliability is the linchpin in determining admissibility of evidence under a standard of fairness that is required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and by the due course of law guaranteed by the Texas Constitution.23 Competent and reliable evidence remains at the foundation of a fair trial, which seeks ultimately to determine the truth about criminal culpability. If crucial inculpatory evidence is alleged to have been derived from unreliable sources, due process and due course of law interests are at risk.

So, how do you challenge the reliability of a young child’s recollection?

To challenge a child’s recollection, you should first have evidence that will support a finding of taint. If you don’t know what that evidence would consist of, you should become familiar with the case of Margaret Kelly Michaels.24 The Michaels case gives you examples of improper interrogation and quite a bit of the research in the field. If you need a starting point to learn about improper interrogation of children, there is probably no better place to start.

When, and only when, you have the evidence to support a taint motion, file a motion requesting a taint hearing. You might also want to challenge the outcry statement by separate motion. If you do so, you might want to try to have both motions heard at the same time. And consider also having the court hear your challenge to the child’s competence heard at the same time.

In a taint hearing, the court is asked to consider whether the number of people who have spoken to the child, the interview techniques employed by the State, its agents, the people or others involved, as well as other factors could have undermined the reliability of the complainant’s statements and subsequent testimony, to the point where the statements should be excluded.25 This is so because the complainant will probably have been sub­jected to repeated questioning and interrogation about the alleged event that gave rise to the indictment. This questioning may have been innocent and well-intentioned, such a relative’s concern when they believe that something untoward has been done to the child, or a counselor’s “belief” that something has happened so that the child may be continued in counseling.26

Again, remember that you, as movant, have the burden of proving what those factors are, that those factors are present, and that they are sufficient to undermine the trier of fact’s ability to rely upon the testimony.

And in a taint hearing, the court is asked to determine whether the child’s accusations were founded “upon unreliable perceptions, or memory caused by improper investigation procedures,” and thus whether the testimony reflecting those accusations could lead to an unfair trial.27 A pretrial hearing is required to assess the reliability of the statements and testimony to be presented by the child witness to determine their admissibility. This logic also applies to the outcry statement.

Expect the DA to try to limit your inquiry into the admissibility of the outcry statement to the factors set forth in Art. 38.072(2)(a), CCP. The authors suggest that the focus should instead be on the factors set forth in Art. 38.072(2)(b)(2), CCP,28 especially the “circumstances” of the statement. Those circumstances would include how the child came to have the “recollection” that led to the outcry.

Consider a couple of cases that the authors have been involved in. One arose out of a divorce case, where custody of an infant daughter was at issue. That daughter was too young to be verbal, so the mother’s two older daughters made outcries against the stepfather. CPS intervened in the divorce, and during discovery in the divorce, CPS produced a tape recording that the mother had made wherein she was heard telling her daughters that “this is what you need to say that your step-daddy did to you.”29

The other case involved a stepdaughter who accused her stepfather of sexually abusing her at the age of 6. After he had served 10 years of a 30-year sentence, she recanted. During the writ hearing, she detailed how upset she was that her mother had divorced her father, and how her aunt told her that if she said these things about her stepfather, her mother would have to divorce him and get back together with her father.30 Not surprisingly, the aunt had been the outcry witness. Also not sur­prisingly, the girl, who was almost 8 when she testified, had no concept of the consequences of her testimony—that her stepfather would be sentenced to prison for 30 years or that her mother would stick by him and not file for divorce.

This is important to comprehend because there is a constantly broadening body of scholarly scientific authority existing on the question of children’s susceptibility to improper interrogation.31 There is a consistent and recurring concern over the capacity of the interviewer and the interview process to distort a child’s recollection through slanted interrogation techniques. There are certain interview practices that are sufficiently coercive or suggestive to alter irremediably the perceptions of alleged child victims.

There are other scientific and psychological propositions that courts have addressed in analogous contexts, among these being (1) the availability of battered women’s syndrome as self-defense in criminal cases;32 2) the holocaust survivors syndrome;33 (3) the effect of hypnosis on the admissibility of testimony;34 and (4) the consideration of testimony at pretrial hearings regarding tainted identification evidence.35

The “investigative interview” is a crucial, perhaps determinative moment in a child-abuse case.36 That an investigatory interview of a young child can be coercive or suggestive and thus shape the child’s response is generally accepted. If a child’s recollection of events has been molded by interrogation, that influence undermines the reliability of the child’s responses as an accurate recollection of actual events.

A variety of factors bear on the kinds of interrogation that can affect the reliability of a child’s statements concerning abuse. A fairly wide consensus exists among experts, scholars, and practitioners concerning improper interrogation techniques. They argue that among the factors that can undermine the neutrality of an interview and create undue suggestiveness are a lack of investigatory independence, the pursuit by the interviewer of a preconceived notion of what has happened to the child, the use of leading questions, the use of suggestive questions, and a lack of control for outside influences on the child’s statements, such as previous conversations with parents or peers and whether the interviewer was a trusted authority figure.37

In cases with a child complainant, the complainant will often have been interviewed or interrogated by family members, psychologists, caseworkers, physicians, detectives, investigators, and even Assistant District Attorneys. The total number of persons will often be difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Often, a number of these persons will have conducted multiple interviews. The use of incessantly repeated questions also adds a manipulative element to an interview. When a child is asked a question and gives an answer, and the question is immediately asked again, the child’s normal reaction is to assume that the first answer was wrong or displeasing to the adult questioner.38 The insidious effects of repeated questioning are even more pronounced when the questions themselves over time suggest information to the child.39 In fact, memories of abuse that never occurred can be implanted in the mind of a child in just one interview.40

The explicit vilification or criticism of the person charged with wrongdoing is another factor that can induce a child to believe abuse has occurred. Similarly, an interviewer’s bias with respect to a suspected person’s guilt or innocence can have a marked effect on the accuracy of a child’s statements. The transmission of suggestion can also be subtly communicated to children through more obvious things such as the interviewer’s tone of voice, mild threats, praise, cajoling, bribes, and rewards, as well as resorting to peer pressure.

These are factors that are often present in contested divorce/custody cases. In fact, the authors routinely look for a the pendency of divorce case when these type of cases come in the door. That is not a bad thing, since it will often afford a vehicle for discovery—discovery that otherwise would not be available in the criminal case.

There is much authority recognizing the considerable sup­port the deleterious impact improper influence can have on a child’s memory. Other courts have recognized that once tainted, the distortion of a child’s memory is irremediable.41 The debilitating impact of improper interrogation has even more pro­nounced effect among very young children.42

The conclusion that improper influences generate a significant risk of corrupting the memories of young children is confirmed by government and law enforcement agencies, which have adopted standards for conducting interviews designed to overcome the dangers stemming from the improper interrogation of young children. The National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse, in cooperation with the National District Attorney’s Associations and the American Prosecutors’ Research Institute, have adopted protocols to serve as standards for the proper interrogation of suspected child-abuse victims. Those interview guidelines require that an interviewer remain “open, neutral and objective”;43 an interviewer should avoid asking leading questions;44 an interviewer should never threaten a child or try to force a reluctant child to talk;45 and multiple interviews with various interviewers should be avoided.46

Courts around the country recognize the very same concerns expressed in the academic literature and addressed by the guidelines established by governmental authorities with respect to improper interrogation of alleged child-abuse victims. The United States Supreme Court noted with approval the conclusion of the Idaho Supreme Court that the failure to videotape interviews with alleged child victims, the use of blatantly leading questions, and the presence of an interviewer with a preconceived idea of what the child should be disclosing, in addition to the children’s susceptibility to suggestive questioning, all indicate the potential for the elicitation of unreliable information.47

So, to conclude, as a matter of judicial economy and, frankly, lawyer economy, the authors believe it is possible to have a hearing that challenges the outcry testimony per Art. 38.072, and as you contest the admissibility requirements of the outcry, you should contest the statutory exception under Crawford. You can also contest the child’s personal knowledge under Rule 602 as well as the reliability of the proposed testimony of the child by virtue of who interviewed the child (parent, social workers, police, forensic interviewers, therapists, doctors, and prosecutors) and how they interviewed the child, while examining how these individuals and the repetition has now made it highly unlikely that the testimony of the child will be reliable (and also whether the child now has personal knowledge—e.g., is it real or is it Memorex®?).

That is why three motions need to be filed and can all be heard at one time by witnesses and experts. And if the judge refuses you, ask to make a bill.48 If the judge refuses to allow you to make your bill, you should make a proffer on the record of what the evidence would show. And then you raise the same objections when the child and outcry witnesses are offered during trial. Hopefully, given the present makeup, this should be held to preserve the error.

Lastly, during trial, make sure to hammer the number of times the child has been talked to, interviewed, counseled, etc. This will at least allow you to argue that the child’s testimony and the child’s outcry are not to be believed.


1. Taint—1. To imbue with a noxious quality or principle. 2. To contaminate or corrupt. 3. To tinge or affect slightly for the worse. Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009)

2. Art. 38.072, CCP

3. See Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony by Stephen J. Ceci and Maggie Bruck (July 1999) for a thorough examination/discussion of the Salem Witch trials.

4. One of the authors attended a CLE presentation by a neuropsychologist from one of the Medical Colleges in the Texas Medical Center. This neuropsychologist opined that repressed memories are real because “you can’t have a memory unless you are in the same chemical state that you were in when the memory was created.” The author looked at the attorney seated next to him and said, “I’m not in the same chemical state as I was when (you fill in the blank) and I distinctly recall it.” The other lawyer laughed and stated that he had the same thought. To say that there are a lot of faulty studies on repressed memories is an understatement.

5. Knowing what your expert can and cannot testify to, and what the expert would have to concede on undisputed facts, is critical to providing effective as­si­stance of counsel. In one of the authors’ cases, the 39-year-old defendant teacher had placed 125 cell phone calls and exchanged 400+ text messages with the 13-year-old student-complainant in a 60-day period. The calls ranged from very short to almost 4½ hours in length, at all times of the day and night. Any competent expert would have to concede that this was consistent with the State’s theory that the teacher was “grooming” the student. As a result, while experts were disclosed, none was ever intended to be called during trial.

6. Tex. R. Evid. 601.

7. McGinn v. State, 961 S.W.2d 161, 165 (Tex.Crim.App.1998).

8. Torres v. State, 33 S.W.3d 252, 255 (Tex.Crim.App.2000) (quoting Watson v. State, 596 S.W.2d 867, 870 (Tex.Crim.App.1980)).

9. Watson, 596 S.W.2d at 870.

10. Broussard v. State, 910 S.W.2d 952, 960 (Tex.Crim.App.1995), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 826, 117 S.Ct. 87, 136 L.Ed.2d 44 (1996)

11. The excerpt from the actual deposition can be found in The Underground Lawyer, © 2001 by Michael Louis Minns.

12. Although the head of the committee read and signed his deposition, he never changed this answer. The specific type of psychic phenomena (spirits, automatic writing, ouija board, tarot cards, crystal ball, tea leaves, etc.) was not identified by the head of the committee.

13. This was in a case in Harris County defended by Mark Ramsey. The three-year-old boy was questioned on videotape by a CPS caseworker. Four times the boy denied that his father had done anything. The caseworker then sat the boy on her lap and proceeded to rub his crotch! The boy was so upset that he wet himself and got away from her. She then repeated the same questions, eliciting different and incriminating answers. At the end of this, she asked whether the answers he had just given were the truth or a lie. The young boy spun around, looked directly at the camera and said, “They’re a lie!” Judge Myron Love found the young boy incompetent to testify, based on the videotape.

14. See, e.g., Investigative Interviews of Children: A Guide for Helping Professionals by Debra A. Poole and Michael E. Lamb (Jan 1, 1998); Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony by Stephen J. Ceci and Maggie Bruck (July 1999); The role of mental imagery in the creation of false childhood memories, Hyman Jr., I. E., & Pentland, J. (1996), Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 101–117; The reality of repressed memories, Loftus, E. F. (1993), American Psychologist, 48, 518–537; The formation of false memories, Loftus, E. F., & Pickrell, J. E. (1995), Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720–725;“A picture is worth a thousand lies: using false photographs to create false childhood memories, Wade, K. A., Garry, M., Read, J. D., & Lindsay, D. S. (2002), Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(3), 597–603.

15. You might even consider including a request that the adults in the child’s family be enjoined from talking to the child about the alleged event.

16. A kid’s statement of opportunity (e.g., “daddy touched my pee-pee and it hurt”) can be taken from what it actually is (a father putting diaper rash cream on a rash) and turned into something far more sinister—if the adult hearing the statement has the motive to do so (e.g., a contested custody case).

17. In this case, counsel had objected to the court allowing this “leeway.” The objection was overruled by the court, so a leading objection was made as to each such question. You should do the same to protect the record.

18. In closing arguments, counsel stood in front of the jury box, put his hands fingertips to fingertips and told the jury, “If this is what little Suzie really thinks that men have, then she is either going to be sorely disappointed or greatly relieved when she becomes a woman.”

19. The DA never wavered from her stated belief that Suzie was to be believed—despite the physical impossibility of what she had described. This demonstrates the position taken by many DAs that everything proves that something happened and nothing proves that something didn’t happen.

20. Credibility—The quality that makes something (as a witness or some evidence) worthy of belief. Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).

21. Josiah Sutton is the poster child for the problems with the Houston Po­lice Department Crime Lab. A crime lab technician testified that the DNA was an exact match even though, with only 3 of 13 alleles matching, it was an absolute exclusion. His writ of habeas corpus was granted, and he was freed af­ter serving 4 years of his sentence.

22. Reliable—Capable of being relied on; dependable. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright © 2000.

23. Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98 (1977) (regarding the corrupting effect of unreliable identification testimony).

24. State v. Michaels, 642 A.2d 1372 (New Jersey 1994). While Michaels is only persuasive authority, it comes from a “sister court” to the Court of Criminal Appeals. And it is spot-on with the science and resources that it refers to.

25. By interview techniques, the authors include all of the times and ways that the adults in the child’s life have spoken to the child about the alleged event. Conversations with parents or adult relatives, counseling sessions, etc., can all affect a child’s recollection.

26. It is an axiom of counseling that the counselor must not be confrontational but must “believe the patient” for the counseling to work. Of course, this raises the very real economic bias of the counselor, since counseling continues only if the child needs it because something has happened. It also raises the spec­ter of “confirmatory bias”—people tend to find what they are looking for.

27. These investigation procedures include parents or relatives repeatedly asking the child what happened. It can also include therapy sessions.

28. “[T]he trial court finds, in a hearing conducted outside the presence of the jury, that the statement is reliable based on the time, content, and circumstances of the statement” (emphasis added).

29. This shows the importance of trying to get discovery through any ongoing civil case. As a result of the tape-recording, the outcries were suppressed and the cases dismissed.

30. These are the facts underlying the writ of actual innocence in Ex parte Harmon, 116 S.W.3d 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

31. See Endnote 14, above.

32. Fielder v. State, 756 S.W.2d 309 (Tex. Crim. App. 1988), Pierini v. State, 804 S.W.2d 258 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1991, review refused), Lane v. State, 957 S.W.2d 584 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1997, no writ).

33. Werner v. State, 711 S.W.2d 639 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986).

34. Zani v. State, 758 S.W.2d 233 (Tex. Crim. App. 1988), Vester v. State, 713 S.W.2d 920 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986, en banc), Spence v. State, 795 S.W.2d 743 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990, en banc), Burnett v. State, 642 S.W.2d 765 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982, en banc).

35. Barley v. State, 906 S.W.2d 27 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995, en banc); Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98 (1977) (regarding the corrupting effect of unreliable identification testimony); Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263 (1967).

36. See Gail S. Goodman and Vicki Helgreson, Child Sexual Assault: Children’s Memory and the Law, 40 U. Miami Law Review, 191, 195 (1985).

37. John E. B. Myers, The Child Witness: Techniques for Direct Examination, Cross-Examination and Impeachment, 18 Pac. L.J. 801, 899 (1987).

38. See Debra A. Poole and Lawrence T. White, Effects of Question Repetition on Eyewitness Testimony of Children and Adults, 27 Developmental Psychology, November (1991) at 975.

39. Goodman and Helgeson, supra, 40 U. Miami L. Rev. at 184–187.

40. See William Bernet, M.D., Case Study: Allegations of Abuse Created in a Single Interview, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36:7, July 1997, pp. 966–970.

41. See State v. Wright, 775 P.2d 1124, 1128 (1989), aff’d sub nom Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805, 110 S.Ct. 3139, 111 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990). (“Once this tainting of memory has occurred, the problem is irremediable. That memory, is from then on, as real to the child as any other.”). See also Stephen J. Ceci and Maggie Bruck, Jeopardy in the Courtroom, 1995, pp. 218–220.

42. See Stephen J. Ceci, PhD, and Mary Lynn Crotteau Huffman, PhD, “How Suggestible are Preschool Children? Cognitive and Social Factors,” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36:7, July 1997, pp. 948–958, as well as Maryann King and John C. Yuille, Suggestibility and the Child Witness in Children’s Eyewitness Memory, 29 (Stephen J. Ceci et al., eds. 1987) and Age Difference in Suggestibility in Children’s Eyewitness Memory 82 (Stephen J. Ceci et al., ed. 1987).

43. American Prosecutors; Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse at p. II-7 (1987).

44. Id. at II-8.

45. Id. at II-9.

46. Id. at II-5.

47. See Idaho v. Wright, 497 U.S. 805, 110 S.Ct. 3139, 111 L.Ed.2d 638 (1990).

48. The right to make a bill of exception is absolute. Kipp v. State, 876 S.W.2d 330 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994). Being refused the right to make a bill of exceptions may build in reversible error.