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.”