Articles Posted in Evidence

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A local man’s hung jury trial highlights that children are more than capable of making false accusations of sexual abuse. San Antonio, Texas resident Vaughn Ernesto Manibog was accused by a 13-year-old of inappropriately touching her after supplying her with cocaine and alcohol. During the trial, the defense attorney provided evidence that the teen bragged about the allegations on her MySpace page. In addition, Manibog had an alibi for the weekend that the alleged abuse took place. The girl’s brother is currently serving probation for falsely accusing a teacher of sexual assault. Manibog’s case ended in a mistrial. The judge in this case also allowed another alleged victim to testify, although Mr. Manibog was not indicted on charges against her.

This is neither an isolated incident nor a strictly local occurrence. All over the nation, more and more people are facing false accusations of sexual misconduct against children. In May of this year felony molesting charges against a Pensacola, FL, music teacher were dropped when a Child Protection Team determined that the 10-year-old accuser made up the story. According to a statement by the accused, he expressed dismay over the fact that nobody believed him, even with the lack of evidence. More recently, a couple in Orange County, NY, filed a suit against the county and the local school district over false child abuse accusations. Their lawsuit is a rare event in the face of false allegations.
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photo.lineup.image.jpgTexas has been receiving attention over the past several years for the number of wrongful conviction in our state. Although Texas has far more wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence than any other state, this is a problem nationwide. The overwhelming majority of these wrongful convictions are due to erroneous eyewitness testimony. According to a report issued by The Justice Project in November 2008:

“Faulty eyewitness identification has played a role in over 75% of the 223 DNA exoneration cases in our country thus far, making mistaken eyewitness identification the leading cause of wrongful conviction in the United States. The same holds true in Texas where 82% of the state’s 38 DNA exonerations involved mistaken eyewitness identifications…Because eyewitness evidence, much like trace physical evidence, is susceptible to contamination if not collected properly, some identification procedures can actually increase the risk of false identification.”

The United States Supreme Court has also recognized the substantial role that eye witness testimony plays in wrongful convictions. See United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 228 (1967). The “vagaries of eyewitness identification are well-known; the annals of criminal law are rife with instances of mistaken identifications.” Id.

Recognizing the problem with eyewitness identifications, the Texas government has passed a bill that addresses how law enforcement agencies obtain the identifications. Texas House Bill 215, will require Texas police departments to have in place new eyewitness identification procedures. This bill shows that at least the Texas government is aware there is a problem with our justice system that needs to be fixed.

HB 215, codified as article 38.20 in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, requires all law enforcement agencies in TExas who regularly conduct photograph or live lineup procedures when performing the officer’s official duties. According to the bill, law enforcement agencies can either adopt the model policy created by the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University or the law enforcement agency may adopts it’s own written policy that conforms to subsection (c) of Article 38.20.
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