Child Complainants Are Unreliable Witnesses in Destin Molestation Cases
December 11, 2015
In child molestation cases, the only eyewitness to the alleged sexual assault is oftentimes the child. While scientific studies and research performed by law enforcement agencies show that children intend, for the most part, to be honest when testifying, there are numerous glaring issues with child testimony in Destin molestation cases that call their entire report of assault under question.
The Effect of Brain Development on Ability to Testify Accurately
The brain is constantly evolving, changing, and growing in minors. Medical researchers have determined that children begin forming memories around 15 months old. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are responsible for declarative and eyewitness memories. Declarative memories are facts, events, and other specific things. Eyewitness memories provide context to declarative memories, such as visuals or smells.
As the brain matures, the ability to remember events increases. However, at young ages, memories are spotty at best. Between ages 2 to 8, while children have the capacity to formulate some memories, their hippocampus is largely underdeveloped. This affects their ability to store and retain long-term memories. Because the hippocampus is in charge of declarative memories, younger children may be unable to accurately recall with specificity, clarity, and precision events that happened to them in the past, even including traumatic events like molestation.
Likewise, the prefrontal cortex is also slow to mature and creates gaps in detailed memories for children. This leads to many children filling in the blanks without intending to be dishonest.
In addition, the amygdala, which aids in memory retrieval, does not finish developing until around age eighteen. Children, especially those under the age of 7, will have great difficulty with recalling events, even those associated with a great emotional response such as molestation.
Children are highly suggestible given their young age and vulnerability. They are greatly influenced by the words and actions of adults around them. There are been numerous molestation convictions reversed after the judge determined that the Destin police department planted false memories of molestation in a child’s brain. Because children can be easily influenced, they do not even realize that a suggestion made by an officer or detective, which later forms a false memory, is not what in fact happened. Furthermore, many adults, capitalizing on children’s vulnerable nature, have convinced the child to spread lies about molestation as a form of retaliation. For instance, in heated child custody battles, one parent may be able to use their influence and status as a parent to convince a child to report untrue molestation allegations to get revenge against the former spouse.
In addition, children, due to their age, have experienced little in the world. They often times misunderstand things and misinterpret them. What a child may believe is molestation may in fact be entirely innocent behavior. This can lead to confusion and a false report of molestation.
Often times, when an individual experiences a highly traumatic event, the brain jumps in to save the day by blocking or distorting memories of what really happened. While researchers have found that traumatic events are associated with long-term retention of the emotions the child experienced during the event, such as fear, the brain does not actually do a good job of remembering accurate details about the event. When a memory is repressed, the child will be unable to recall what really happen and could be influenced by external sources, such as parents, police, or the television, to testify about something that did not happen or to identify the wrong person.
Protect Your Rights with a Destin Criminal Defense Attorney
If you were falsely accused of molesting a child in Destin, a skilled sex crimes defense lawyer can help defend you against the unfair charges. To schedule a free consultation with Stephen G. Cobb, a Destin criminal defense attorney dedicated to fighting felony sex crimes in Florida, call (850) 423-0035 now.
Cobb Law Firm
1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-B
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547