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A Neighbor Accused of Molesting a Child Next Door

The law enforcement interview of the alleged victim helped the defense convince a jury to acquit the accused.

Case Summary

The accusation: That Jack fondled the genitals of Katie, his five-year-old next-door neighbor, while giving her a back scratch she had asked for.

The charge: Child Molestation in the First Degree.

The possible sentence: life in prison.

The defense David Marshall presented:

The story Katie told did not add up. By all accounts, Jack had had many opportunities to molest Katie, as she often came to his home to play with his grandsons. Yet she said he had molested her only once, on an occasion far less private than many other opportunities. Also, she showed no reluctance to be around Jack after that occasion—until she had a conversation with her mother in which, according to the mother, she reported molestation.

The trial result: Jack was acquitted by the jury in less than an hour.

What helped win the case: As in most child sex abuse cases involving young children, the prosecutor’s evidence included a complete report of the child’s interview by law enforcement. Most often defense lawyers attack the law enforcement interviewer’s work, suggesting leading questions elicited false allegations. Here, David took the opposite approach. He lauded the interviewer’s work and noted that the only allegation it had produced was Katie’s statement that Jack had “scratched” her by her “pee-pee.” Even a five-year-old, David argued, would use a word other than “scratched” (maybe “rubbed”) to describe fondling of her genitals, if she had truly experienced it. Katie had used “scratched” because she had an accurate memory of Jack scratching her back, on her request.

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