PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Gina Lauterio
Telephone: 301-801-0608
Email: glauterio@prosecutorintegrity.org

‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations Imperil the Presumption of Innocence, CPI Alleges

WASHINGTON / September 29, 2016 – A leading criminal justice reform organization is today calling on criminal justice officials and law school professors to speak out in opposition to so-called “victim-centered” investigations, and in support of the legal precept of the presumption of innocence. The Center for Prosecutor Integrity believes “victim-centered” investigative methods, which are based on the notion of “start by believing” and “always believe the victim,” are becoming more commonplace.

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity presents five examples of documents that promote the “victim-centered” approach:

  1. The Human Rights Watch report, “Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault” urges investigators to assume that “all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings.” The HRW document uses the conclusory word “victim” 350 times, while factually neutral words such as “complainant,” “accuser,” or “alleged” do not appear once. https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/improvingSAInvest_0.pdf
  1. A document from the Department of Justice and Police Executive Research Forum instructs investigators to hand “control of the process back to the victim” and allow the complainant “to request certain investigative steps not be conducted.” Such actions are likely to bias the investigation and render its conclusions inaccurate. http://ric-zai-inc.com/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-W0796
  1. A recent report urges investigators to “Start by Believing” the accuser, but acknowledges that the “Start by Believing” approach may “compromise the ability of police and prosecutors to remain objective, potentially opening them up to attacks by defense counsel and/or losing cases at trials.” https://www.evawintl.org/Library/DocumentLibraryHandler.ashx?id=789
  1. A training program by the consulting firm Margolis Healy & Associates instructs college investigators to “Always approach a case believing that ‘something’ occurred” (slide 26) and to “Focus on offender behavior – not victim behavior” (slide 28). http://www.slideshare.net/margolishealy/mha-title-ix-investigations-2012-legal-issues-in-higher-education
  1. The University of Texas’ Blueprint for Campus Police is unique in its repeated recommendations that investigators should not only presume the truthfulness of the accuser, but also seek to anticipate and counter defense strategies (Table 7.4). https://utexas.app.box.com/blueprintforcampuspolice

The Center for Prosecutor Integrity will be hosting a national teleconference titled, “How ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations Undermine the Presumption of Innocence and Victimize the Innocent.” The teleconference will be held in conjunction with Wrongful Conviction Day on October 4, 1:00 to 4:00pm, Eastern time. The teleconference is free of charge. Dial-in and other information is available here: http://www.prosecutorintegrity.org/wrongful-conviction-day/forum/