The Plea Chapter Twenty-Two Bullet to the Heart


I can’t sleep. I haven’t been able to sleep for a long time.  I remember the sound of my brother’s voice after he’d been beaten and raped.  He called me from the penitentiary sobbing and pleading for me to help him.  “Please, Sis,” he said stuttering.  “They’re going to kill me.”  He was barely recognizable when I saw him next.  The damage that can be done by putting bars of soap and batteries in a sock and beating a man around the head and face is shocking.  I see my brother’s bloody, broken, swollen face when I try to sleep.  I remember how he begged me to help him.  I’ve been trying.  I am haunted.

If a person robbed a bank, stole a car, kidnapped someone, the authorities would employ a number of tactics to prove the accused perpetrated the crime; fingerprints, witnesses, motive, evidence, etc. If a person is accused of child molestation you don’t need any of those things.  You only need the word of the alleged victim.  The accuser in my brother’s case had claimed a variety of people had molested her, her testimony is not consistent, and she was known for not telling the truth.  She claimed it happened when she was three, then changed the tale to five, some of the testimony notes that nothing happened until she was eight.  She claims to have shared this horrific news with her sister and admitted to being petrified of him, but during a storm one night she and her sister crawled in bed with my brother.  Teenage girls who believed he was as horrible as they said crawled in bed with him.

There are many instances of nonsense and lies in this scenario.   I’ve spent eleven years pouring over the evidence, creating time lines, reviewing the records which include copious reports from eight different psychotherapists who note that my brother does not meet the profile of a man capable of doing such things.

Combine this deadly fairytale with a wife who is having an affair and wants out of the marriage and you have a perfect motive for perpetuating this lie. I recently had occasion to speak with the ex-wife of the man who was sleeping with my brother’s wife.  She had no idea the affair had been going.  She collapsed at work when she found out and had to be transported to a hospital.  How can you take the word of a woman who makes it a habit of pursuing married men?  Who lies about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing?

Many of the accusations this duplicitous woman’s teenage daughter accused my brother parrots the accusations she made against her own father. She would sit around for hours with friends and talk opening about being molested by her father.  Her teenage daughter was encouraged to be in the room with her when such communication was going on.  I know.  I was there for more than one of those sessions.

Which brings me to the subject of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Professionals in the field universally agree that Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), is manifest in children who “view one parent as all good and the other as all bad.” These children have been “programmed by their mothers to hate their father and to subject him to a campaign of denigration” (Gardner, 1992, p. 160). Among the material the mother sometimes also programs the child to believe is that the father has sexually abused him/her. When an allegation arises after a dispute over custody, Gardner believes it possesses a “high likelihood of being false” (Gardner, 1991, p. 4). A companion to the PAS is the Sexual Abuse Legitimacy Scale (SALS, Gardner, 1987). The present version (1992) contains 84 differentiating criteria, 24 of which apply to the alleged offender, 30 to the child, and 30 to the mother. Many of these criteria relate specifically to allegations of abuse in divorce.

Benedek, E. Court Testimony. E. Morgan v. E. Foretich, V. Foretich, and D. Foretich. Alexandria, VA: United States District Court, February 18, 1987.

Blush, G., Ross, K. Sexual Allegations in Divorce: The SAID Syndrome. Unpublished manuscript available from the Psychodiagnostic Clinic, Macomb County Circuit Court, Mt. Clemens, MI, 1986.

Paradise, J., Rostain, A., Nathanson, M. Substantiation of Sexual Abuse Charges When Parents Dispute Custody or Visitation. Pediatrics 1988, 81(6):835-839. Renshaw, D. Child Sexual Abuse: When Wrongly Charged. Encyclopedia Britannica Medical and Health Annual 1987, 301-303. Renshaw, D. When Sexual Abuse Is Wrongly Charged. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 1985, 19(7):116-121.

Ross, K. SAID Syndrome: Fact or Fallacy. Workshop at Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI, May 1988.

Many therapists, prosecutors and DFS workers refuse to acknowledge that children will report an allegation of sexual abuse as a result of leading and suggestive questioning. However, in my experience, jurors are very receptive to the idea that a young child can be led into believing he or she has been sexually abused by improper and repeated interviews. In many criminal trials, the jury has to consider two options as to each witness:

(1)        the witness is telling the truth or (2) the witness is lying. If you are going to be successful in defending your client from false allegations of sexual abuse, you have to give the jury a third option: (3) the child may be neither lying nor telling the truth. The child may say what he or she believes is true, even though it is not the truth.

(2)        A pysicatrist Dr. Lee Colman writes”At first blush, this seems a rather unlikely possibility, to say the least. A child believes in sexual abuse which has not taken place. I would certainly be skeptical of such an idea if I hadn’t had a chance to see how children are being manipulated by adult interviewers — sometimes by a police officer or protective service worker, sometimes by a mental health professional – who have been trained to believe that those who really care and are sufficiently skilled at their work will help the child talk about sexual abuse.”

In order to educate the jury on the substantial evidence that exists that a child can believe he or she was sexually abused as a result of the interviewing process, I would recommend that you call an expert (I have used both psychiatrists and psychologists) to testify how leading and suggestive questions can distort a child’s memory and how what the child is now reporting was first suggested by the interviewer and not the child. I would also recommend that through discovery you question every person

that questioned the you attempt to show what questions were asked in each interview. By then demonstrating to the jury (I do this by printing the leading and suggestive questions on a large chart) that what the child is now reporting was first suggested by an interviewer, reasonable doubt may be established. (See Appendix D for a detailed explanation of how this was demonstrated in one case.)

Of course, probably the most effective way to demonstrate to a jury that a young child can be led to make false allegations of sexual abuse is to lead the child into making false allegations when you question that child. If you have evidence that a particular child has been subjected to interviews where leading and suggestive questions were asked and the child has incorporated

the misleading information supplied in the questions into his account of the allegations of abuse, you may want to use the same type of questioning technique to demonstrate that fact.  If an attorney takes the time to learn what type of questions are most likely to lead to false allegations and what type of interviewing techniques are most likely to lead to false allegations, the attorney can elicit false allegations from the child

I watched a television program last evening about a man meeting a blind date for the first time. Someone he’d been chatting with in one of the many dating services available.  Imagine his surprise when the date that shows up is an eight year old girl.  He makes a beeline for the door, but before he gets there the girl tells him that he will buy her ice cream or she will tell her father that he’s been talking to her online.  “And the police will come and press charges and your life will never be the same,” the smug child informed the naïve man.  I didn’t laugh at the punchline.  I think this kind of thing happens all too often.

My brother has been in prison for eleven years. I agreed to take the plea rather than fight this out in court.  I was told there was a 97% conviction rate for anyone going to court on such an accusation.  All a jury needs to see and hear is the accusation and the poor individual being accused. I wish to heaven I’d never taken the plea.  The suffering that continues is my fault.  I made a poor decision.  By that time Rick had been beaten and was struggling with the onset of Parkinson’s disease.  I am haunted by the decision.

Dealing with the prison system is an everyday thing for me. Making sure Rick has the right medicine and enough of it to keep the tremors down.  His body shakes so badly he can barely feed himself.  I can’t sleep.  The pain from this ongoing experience keeps me awake.  The pain is like a bullet to the heart only less merciful.  A bullet to the heart will kill you and here I sit ready to face the day.