Shannon Smith is a criminal sexual conduct lawyer who represents clients accused of sex crimes. This series of articles is designed to help you understand the many complex issues that arise in criminal sexual conduct cases. It is critical to hire a sex lawyer who understands these concepts to achieve the best outcome in your case and/or at trial.
In Michigan criminal sexual conduct cases, there are two major issues that come up in nearly every trial. These are the concepts of credibility and reliability. This is especially true with criminal sexual conduct when the complainant is a child.
The concepts of reliability and credibility are two distinct topics. Credibility goes to whether the witness is telling the truth or lying. Child witnesses in particular may have distorted memories of events that never really took place. They are not lying, however, they may have false memories of criminal sexual conduct that cause them to inaccurately remember things that never happened.
Determining whether it is better to attack a witness’s credibility or reliability is a strategic call that a sex lawyer has to make when handling a criminal sexual conduct case. When a witness is untruthful and a known liar, sometimes attacking the witness’s character for truthfulness is a better strategy. When the witness seems to really believe events happened that never took place, sometimes it is better to show how their memory is unreliable and therefore, they are mistaken. By having an expert in suggestibility, memory and child psychology testify, the jury can understand how this happens and the scientific studies that explain false memories. Experts can never testify whether a witness is credible or not – this is the job of the jury as they are the finder of fact.
Our firm has tremendous experience dealing with false memory issues and reliability issues. We routinely work with experts on our cases who keep us current on the latest research and studies that may help your defense. Sadly, some attorneys who claim to handle sex cases do not understand expert issues such as this. It is critical to hire an attorney who has experience in these highly complicated cases. Michigan Courts have ruled that defense counsel who fail to present expert testimony of this nature are ineffective.