Expert Panel Calls on Lawmakers, Criminal Justice Leaders to Bring an End
to ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations
WASHINGTON / October 17, 2016 – Warning ‘victim-centered’ investigations
are “inconsistent with basic notions of fairness and justice,” an Expert
Panel has issued a report calling on lawmakers and criminal justice
authorities to bring an end such practices (1). The Expert Panel was
convened in observance of Wrongful Conviction Day on October 4 and
addressed the growing problem of ‘victim-centered’ investigations in the
criminal justice system.
‘Victim-centered’ methods abandon traditional notions of impartiality and
objectivity, and instead call on investigators to presume that “all
sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise,” as one
report enjoins (2). Such recommendations represent a negation of the
long-held tenet of the presumption of innocence, and are likely to lead
to wrongful convictions.
One of the expert panelists was Carol Martin, president of the American
Federal Contract Investigators Association. Martin works predominantly on
military cases, where investigators have been known to conduct their
investigations with a disregard for the rights of the accused. She
observed that victim-centered approaches worsen the problem of
investigative confirmation bias.
Panelist Jerome Rogoff, MD, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who has
consulted on several Innocence Project cases, noted that in some cases
prosecutors have ignored exculpatory evidence, even where there was
strong reason to believe the defendant was innocent. VCI advocates claim
that “always believe the victim” approaches are necessary to avoid
“re-traumatizing” complainants, even though they are likely to undermine
the fundamental integrity and accuracy of the investigational findings.
Christopher Perry, Esq., Program Director for the Center for Prosecutor
Integrity, spoke about the need for ‘justice-centered’ methods. Perry
recommended that investigators disregard preconceived inclinations, seek
out all relevant evidence, and produce unbiased reports. He concluded
that respectful treatment of complainants is not incompatible with the
pursuit of impartial, accurate, and honest investigations.