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Judge: consider corroborative evidence in certain molestation cases

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Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker thinks it’s time that corroborative evidence be required in child molestation cases in which the charges are supported by the testimony of a single witness.

Baker dissented from his colleagues in Erasmo Leyva, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 02A03-1111-CR-535, because he believed that the victim’s testimony was incredibly dubious. A.L., who was 11 at the time, accused her father of placing his fingers inside her vagina during a visit to her father’s home. A.L. and her brother were at Erasmo Leyva’s home to celebrate Easter and their birthdays. When her stepmother, brother, and half-sibling were all asleep in the living room after watching a movie, A.L. said that her father molested her.

She intended to call her mother, but couldn’t immediately find a phone. She informed her mother of the alleged molestation when she arrived home the next day. A.L. said this was the only time her father had ever molested her.

The Court of Appeals upheld Leyva’s Class A felony child molesting conviction, rejecting his claim that his daughter’s testimony was incredibly dubious. He argued she had reasons to lie about the incident – A.L. was upset because her birthday party was being held on her brother’s birthday; she didn’t get a new cell phone for her birthday; and she was angry that her brother took her spot during the movie.

Baker, however, pointed to the multiple times in A.L.’s testimony in which she couldn’t remember many events and circumstances during the weekend of the alleged incident and couldn’t remember the events that didn’t reflect positively on her, like her anger toward her brother.

He also found the circumstances around the alleged molestation to run “counter to the human experience,” and she had a motive to fabricate. Baker then explained why courts should consider requiring corroborative evidence in these types of cases, citing cases from other jurisdictions.

“With the advent of modern technology, including DNA testing and analysis, it is not unreasonable to require some form of corroborating evidence before convicting a defendant when the sole witness is the victim,” he wrote. “This is especially true when the defendant has been accused of child molesting and similar offenses, insofar as if convicted, he will not only be sentenced accordingly, but also subject to certain registry and residency restrictions.”


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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