Want to know why rape-culture activists prefer ambiguous accusations?
The latest fad in law enforcement is âtrauma informedâ investigations into sexual-assault accusations.
Calling them âinvestigationsâ is a stretch â the purpose is to give alleged victims fewer opportunities to share details that can reveal inconsistencies in their stories. In other words, to predetermine the result of the investigation and make a prosecutorâs job easier by denying the defense potentially exonerating evidence.
These pseudo-investigations are already common on college campuses, but thankfully, not all police departments are using these techniques, and not all district attorneys want to send innocent people to jail â even if it means compromising their win record.
A man who was accused of molesting a minor saw his 50-year prison sentence tossed â 18 months in â after his accuserâs voluminous details provided the evidence needed to discredit her story.
Itâs nice to have a positive story come out of my home state of Oregon, whose national claim to fame is banning black people well into the 20th century, though the story also raises doubts about Oregonâs brand of justice in the 21st century.
âMade a huge impression on the jury,â but the DA didnât realize it would blow up
The Associated Press reports that Joshua Horner was convicted last year even though the jury wasnât unanimous, a legal quirk allowed in Oregon for non-murder felony cases (already sounds like a Title IX proceeding).
The 42-year-old plumberâs accuser claimed that he shut her up by shooting and killing her dog, âa black lab named Lucy,â and threatening to kill her other pets if she went to police. This claim was first raised mid-trial and âmade a huge impression on the jury,âÂ Oregon Public BroadcastingÂ reported.
The Oregon Innocence Project agreed to take Hornerâs case in part because of this failure by both prosecution and defense to investigate the late-breaking dead-dog claim, Legal Director Steve Wax told OPB.
My lengthy aside to gripe about conveniently blind prosecutors and incomplete reporting:
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told the AP his office had âno credible reason to questionâ the dead-dog claim at trial. This is hard to believe, although previous reporting has been ambiguous about Hornerâs exact relationship with his accuser, making it difficult to tell whether Hummelâs office ignored red flags.
The Oregon Innocence Project said his âdaughterâ accused him, without specifying if sheâs his stepdaughter. The AP says Hornerâs âthen-girlfriendâ had reportedly given Lucy the dog away, which suggested it was also her daughter and that the mother was covering up the daughterâs lie. The project refers to a âcomplaining witness [who] filed a false report of abuse by Joshâs wife, which further damaged her credibility.âÂ The trial was in 2017.
Horner married his wife (below) shortly before charges were filed in 2014. This couldnât be the âthen-girlfriendâ if itâs his accuserâs mother â could it?
It was only Thursday when The Washington Post filled in the gaps left by clumsy reporting, citing âtranscripts filed with the Oregon Court of Appealsâ:
Between 2006 and 2013, the witness told the court, her father, Joshua Horner, had groped her breasts and vagina on multiple occasions. She was 5 when the abuse started, the same age as when her parents divorced, the witness said. Throughout the years, Horner also allegedly penetrated her with a Ken doll, a gun and a pencil, and forced her to watch pornography as well. The witness opened up about the heinous acts only in 2014, she testified, in part because her father had sealed her silence with threats to her family and pets if she talked, she said.
This is the accuserâs explanation for letting her father molest her for seven years before telling even her mother. It turns out Horner was living with his new girlfriend Kelli, whom he would soon marry, but his daughter still saw him âregularly,â according to the Post.
AfterÂ âan argument about the girlâs chores,â the accuserâsÂ mother â Hornerâs ex-wife â told her she would live with Horner, her soon-to-be-remarried father, every other week. Thatâs when the accuser dropped the bombshell accusations:
âThe allegation that the complainant made was made the same week she learned Mr. Horner was going to remarry,â [the Oregon Innocence Projectâs] Wax said. The accuser admitted in court that she did not like Hornerâs new wife, and Wax said the daughter had made an assault allegation against the new wife as well. However, local police investigated that claim and found it was baseless.
Two. Giant. Red. Flags. Ignored by prosecutors.
The APâs claim that Hornerâs âthen-girlfriendâ had given the dog away apparently referred to his ex-wife: The Post says Horner gave away the dog (it kept killing the neighborâs chickens) when his daughter was two, making a mockery of her claim that he threatened to kill the dog to keep her quiet.
Hornerâs problem was he only knew the new ownerâs first name. Fortunately the dogâs longtime veterinarian knew the full name.
â peter max (@AuthorityBrand1) September 12, 2018
(This rigamarole might have been easier to put together before the Postâs excellent reporting if the AP, which knows the identity of the accuser, had named her. It says it doesnât identify âalleged victims of sexual abuse,â apparently even after theyâve been caught lying under oath about why they waited so long to report.)
Whatever the reason for the DAâs incurious response to the dead-dog claim, Hummel didnât stop the accuser from talking about the dog, as âtrauma informedâ techniques would dictate when the accuser gets too specific.
Thank heavens he didnât, and that Hummel realized his goof when the Oregon Innocence Project asked for his help tracking down Lucy. (It was half-noble: Hummelâs predecessor had indicted Horner, so he wasnât quite endangering his own win record, and Hummel campaigned âon a platform of criminal justice reform,â according to OPB, so his action may help him burnish his image.)
This strangest of duos, an innocence project and a prosecutor, eventually tracked the dog to the coastal town of Gearhart, more than four hours away, the AP says:
That key evidence showed the complainant had not been truthful when testifying, the district attorney said.
âLucy the dog was not shot. Lucy the dog is alive and well,â Hummelâs office said in a statement.
Fox News reports that the project volunteer who found Lucy said she was âdrinking a bowl of water and sitting in shade underneath a porch,â and that her âadorable shaped head and really long earsâ immediately identified her as Lucy.
It wasnât actually Lucyâs continued existence that got Horner a new trial â it was the judgeâs refusal to let his lawyer challenge the prosecutionâs PTSD âexpertâ (sounds like Title IX, again!). But after Lucy was found alive and well at the beach, the judge scheduled to oversee the second trial dismissed it.
Hornerâs accuser didnât show up for a meeting in August to discuss her testimony, and she âran awayâ when a DA investigator tried to visit her at home, according to the AP. (The Post, again, is even more detailed: Hummelâs motion to dismiss said the accuser âwas already sprinting down the driveway and disappeared in the distance.â)
Joshua Horner was accused of sexual abuse and killing the complainantâs dog. His case was dismissed when Lucy the dog was found alive and well. pic.twitter.com/wa4tc2ivuq
â Dose (@dose) September 12, 2018
Look what happens when you donât carefully coach accusers
This was the four-year-old Oregon Innocence Projectâs first exoneration. Wax, the groupâs legal director and a veteran public defender, told the AP it owes its victory to something practically unheard of in child sex abuse cases: objective evidence. âFinding Lucy alive showed the complainant lied under oath in her testimony.â
Wax told OPBÂ that it found Horner by distributing a questionnaire in prisons. He had only served six months when the group took his case; in its other active cases, clients had already served 10 to 20 years when it got involved.
The project is using this case to shine a light on the systemic failures, particularly in sex-abuses investigations, that made Hornerâs conviction possible:
âThe toll that itâs taken on [Horner] is immeasurable. We need to have a system in place that adequately funds investigation by police and prosecution, that adequately funds investigation by defense, so that weâre not in this situation in the future,â WaxÂ said.
He said Oregonâs guidelines for investigating child sex abuse allegations shouldÂ be amended. The project alsoÂ advocatesÂ reforming eyewitness identification, interrogation practices, discovery practices âand other policies that do not serve to protect the innocent or punish theÂ guilty.â
The project is too polite to say it, but the âinterrogation practicesâ it wants to reform almost certainly include trauma-informed techniques.
These are justified by pseudoscience that claims accusers slowly reconstruct their memories after a trauma-inducing event like sexual assault â in other words, that their final (coached) narrative is the authentic one. (We know what can happen when police actually do their jobs.)
The due-process group Stop Violent and Abusive Environments is using this case to remind the public about the toll of false accusations.
In a press release Wednesday as part of âFalse Allegations Awareness Month,â the group cited findings from the National Registry of Exonerations. It claims more than half of exonerations overall, and more than eight in 10 for child sex abuse cases,Â are caused by false allegations or perjury.
It also cited the results of its 2011 telephone survey: Nearly 10 percent of respondents said they had been falsely accused ofÂ child abuse, domestic violence or sexual abuse, and one in six said they personally knew someone who said they were falsely accused. (Keep in mind this was before the Obama administrationâs draconian reinterpretation of Title IX had worked its way through higher education, scaring colleges into revoking basic protections for accused students.)
Speaking of campus, the group notes that Title IX training materials sometimes tell adjudicators to believe that truth isnât truth, to quote Rudy Giuliani.
If an accuser is caught in a lie, according to University of Mississippi materials unearthed in a federal lawsuit, that should be seen as aÂ âside effect of an assault.â
UPDATED: The Washington Post filled in many of the reporting gaps after this article was published, clarifying Hornerâs relationship to his accuser and her mother and how his pending remarriage affected the accusations. The article has been amended in light of Post reporting.
IMAGE:Â Oregon Justice Resource Center