Is our disgust over sex crimes resulting in wrongful convictions? I can’t prove it, but I think so.
Three very good friends of mine were wrongly convicted of sex crimes. In each case, the alleged crimes involved molestation of little girls. In each case, the stories were prompted by adults. In each case, there was another emotion driving the accusations, such as jealousy or vindictiveness. Jealousy over the lifestyle of someone with more wealth, anger as the result of a family fight, or anger over a broken relationship. Accusing a man of molesting a little girl was a way to ease those emotions, perhaps a way to get a financial settlement, perhaps a way to just plain get even.
As a result, these three guys were convicted by juries. Prosecutors are well aware of the fact that average citizens hate the thought of adults molesting kids. They want to put them away.
As a result, these three guys collectively spent decades behind bars. Members of the Michigan Parole Board make no secret of the fact that they dislike sex offenders. They demand that these prisoners show a lot of remorse and regret, and they often decide that the judge’s sentence wasn’t stiff enough. They keep these people in longer than their early release date.
Two of my friends finally got out before serving the maximum sentence by lying. In tears they informed me that they decided to confess to wrongdoing, just so they could get out of prison. They were professional people who couldn’t stand it in there any longer. The third refused to change his story and refused to show remorse for something he didn’t do, so he actually maxed out. They had to let him go because he served every day of his sentence. He’s still a very angry man.
I bring all of this up because the pastor of an area church recently came to me with a fresh case, and it smacks of the same thing. An angry person prompting a trumped-up story by a youngster. And now, another man with no criminal history who has never seen the inside of a prison, destined to spend decades behind bars.
There’s no question that we want stern action taken against those who molest children, and we want those individuals taken out of society and put into cages.
The challenge here is to not play on the emotions of jurors, but to demand thorough investigation that results in solid evidence. Not hearsay and conflicting stories. Let's put the offenders away, but let's be darned sure they're actually offenders.
I’m sad about this new case. I find it very troubling. You’ll be reading and hearing more as the friends and supporters of this obviously innocent man become more vocal in days to come. But the simple conclusion is that another life has been ruined by this hell-bent desire to convict everyone accused of a sex offense, the facts be damned.
Methinks it’s time to get tough on those who fabricate these stories. If the accusations are found to be false, those who started it all should face equally strong charges and equally stiff sentences. And if cops and prosecutors and lawyers are a party to these wrongful convictions, they should not be exempt.