Friday, July 03, 2009

Michigan Appeals Court Rules That Rape Victims Cannot Be Sued For Wrongful Prosecution

From Detroit News:

The appeals court reversed a federal judge in Detroit Wednesday and threw out 21 of Jeffrey Moldowan's claims in a federal lawsuit he filed in 2005, including his malicious prosecution and other claims against the Jane Doe who accused him.

The woman, who was severely and permanently injured in the attack, can't be sued for malicious prosecution, even if she testified falsely, the appeals court ruled.

Although the woman's identification of Moldowan, a former boyfriend, as one of her attackers "was critical to the Macomb County Prosecutor's decision to prosecute him, her statements were only part of a broader, independent investigation," the appeals court ruled in a published opinion.

Also, "victims of crime, especially the types of crime that occurred here, must feel secure that cooperating with the police will not expose them to lengthy and invasive civil proceedings," which "re-exposes them to significant emotional trauma." Such victims should have absolute immunity from civil litigation for their testimony, the appeals court ruled.

This ruling is the correct one. Crime victims are not the people who do the prosecuting and many times their testimony and their wishes related to prosecution are ignored.

Because of this woman's permanent injuries there is no dispute over whether she is a genuine crime victim, but in cases where a wrongful prosecution is alleged because the defendant claims that no crime was committed, protections need to cover all those who report crimes unless they are convicted of filing a false police report.

Criminal convictions are overturned when defendants are exonerated (proven factually innocent), but they can also be overturned even when defendants are guilty as charged. Failure to prove someone guilty in a court of law is not the same as proving someone factually innocent. The misuse of forensics such as bite marks can cause a conviction of someone who is factually guilty to be considered wrongfully convicted by the courts.

Many news stories confuse these two situations because in both cases people who were convicted have those convictions overturned.

Another man, Michael Cristini, convicted of participating in the same rape and who was released because of doubts about the same expert's testimony was arrested on new sexual assault charges related to alleged crimes against a child which began about 6 months after he was released from prison.

Moldowan and Cristini were both retried in Macomb County Circuit Court and acquitted after controversial bite mark evidence used by prosecutors during the first trial was called into question.

The case generated even more attention when a federal grand jury launched a probe into campaign contributions given to former Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Marlinga during his 2002 congressional campaign, including one given to him by Realtor Ralph Roberts, who had employed Moldowan’s sister.

The investigation focused in part on a brief Marlinga had submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court discrediting the bite-mark evidence used in the Moldowan trial. Marlinga was accused of taking an $8,000 campaign contribution from Roberts in exchange for using his position as the Macomb County prosecutor to influence the criminal case.

Marlinga wasn't convicted so there is no proof that there was any wrongdoing involved in the actions which freed these 2 men. Eliminating the bite mark analysis didn't, however, prove these 2 men to be factually innocent. They may in fact be innocent of the crime they were convicted of committing, but they weren't proven factually innocent.

That means the victim's testimony could have been both truthful and accurate. If the juries in the retrial heard evidence which only showed that these men could be guilty then they were correct to acquit them.

Because of all of these issues related to how cases are prosecuted and because of the burden of proof, crime victims must be protected from these types of civil lawsuits not just by the courts but by lawmakers so that victims don't have to worry about how individual judges or courts will rule.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:21 AM   0 comments links to this post


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