State vs. S. J.

James C Wing JR

Case Conclusion Date:May 8, 2007

Practice Area:Juvenile

Outcome:Case dismissed.

Description:A minor child was accused of sexually touching a younger child. During the first meeting with the Juvenile Prosecutor, I was able to avoid having the case referred to the adult docket of the Geographical Area Court. Certain charges are automatically transferred to the adult docket, but the Juvenile Prosecutor substituted lesser charges to keep the case in Juvenile Court. The child, who denied responsibility, began counseling. Several weeks later the counselor could not offer a strong opinion as to whether the child was culpable and the child continued to deny the charges. After discussions with the child and parents, and separately with the parents, after meetings with the psychologist, we determined to go to trial and leave the State to its proof. The Juvenile Prosecutor chose not to prosecute based on the strength of the evidence and the potential trauma that testifying might cause the victim. The State's case was mostly circumstantial beyond the victim's expected testimony. I moved the Court to order that the trial commence immediately or be dismissed and when the Juvenile Prosecutor declined to proceed the case was dismissed. Obviously, the issues are serious and terrifying. No one wants to see harm done to a child and the victim's allegations were serious. Alternatively, labeling a child a sex offender and punishing him for a crime he may not have committed is also harming a child. The accused remained in counseling for months after the dismissal of the case to insure that he would have support dealing with the entire experience. He is lucky to have strong and supportive parents.

Careful preparation maximizes outcomes from negotiation and, if needed, at trial.

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