Victim-Centered Investigations:

“Assume that all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings”

Prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and jurors rely on evidence that is accurate, complete, and unbiased. And ethics codes require investigators to do their work in an impartial and honest manner:

In light of these ethical mandates, the expansion of so-called “victim-centered” investigations is worrisome. Its proponents assert that:

VCI proponents don’t use the words “complainant” or “accuser.” They only refer to “victims” and “survivors,” conclusory words that presume that a crime in fact did occur and serve to remove the presumption of innocence from the accused. Relying on victim-centered investigations, criminal adjudications could come to resemble the accounts of Black men accused of rape during the Jim Crow era:

“Blacks were found guilty upon mere accusation, with no substantive evidence offered, no adequate counsel granted, and no real attempt on the part of the courts to provide evenhanded justice.”  Jerrold Packard, American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow. Page 133

Justice-Centered Investigations

CPI recommends that investigators follow justice-centered investigative procedures—

  • Discharge their duties with objectivity and impartiality.
  • Make reasonable efforts to contact all potential witnesses, in addition to those recommended by the complainant or accused.
  • Seek to gather and disclose both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence, and make all such evidence available to the complainant and the accused.
  • Thoroughly document and/or videotape all communications with the complainant and accused, as well as with potential witnesses, evidence collected, and interviews conducted, which shall be made available to the complainant and accused prior to appearing in court or before a disciplinary panel.
  • Compile and evaluate evidence in an impartial manner before rendering an opinion.

Information on victim-centered investigations in campus sexual assault cases can be seen HERE. The CPI Victim-Centered Investigations project is supported by an Executive Committee.

Letters to Organizations

Examples of Wrongful Convictions

In recent years, numerous wrongful convictions have been traced to biased investigations. These are a few examples:

  • Brian Banks – Charged with forcible rape despite a complete lack of physical evidence, inconsistencies in the complainant’s statements, and implausibility of the allegation. Ultimately, the complainant confessed to fabricating the allegation.
  • Violet Amirault – Charged with child sexual assault while operating a day care facility in the 1980s.  According to the appellate court,  Ms. Amirault, was the victim of “overzealous” investigators who succumbed to a “climate of panic, if not hysteria.” The children’s accounts were tainted by suggestive interviewing techniques and were coerced by investigators who refused to take a denial of abuse as an answer.
  • Reginald Connor – Charged and convicted of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl based on the report of a drug-addicted police informant.  However, police did not document the statements by witnesses who offered exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated Mr. Connor.  Further, the police did not inform the prosecution about any of the exculpatory statements.  Ultimately, DNA and witness statements allowed Connor’s charges to be vacated.
  • William Vasquez – He was charged for arson after the home owner, a known drug addict with a motivation to lie, testified that she saw Vasquez leaving her home just before the explosion.  The complainant gave numerous inconsistent statements and there was zero corroborative physical evidence.  The complainant later recanted her story before she died.  Vasquez was exonerated in 2015.

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