Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Does It Take

Back in the Eighties, former Vancouver, Washington police Officer Clyde Ray Spencer was convicted of molesting his children and a step-child. He'd been sentenced to two life sentences plus fourteen years. In in 2004, a finding that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence prompted then-Governor Gary Locke to commute Spencer's sentence. Now, his children have come forward and recanted their statements to police. Although both children had been told that they were blocking out the memories of what happened by their mother when they were younger, it appears that they'd never been told the full extent of what it had been said was done to them, and are incredulous that they could have so completely suppressed what were billed as extremely violent and traumatic attacks. They testified for an appellate court, in their father's attempts to have his original no-contest plea thrown out and his convictions vacated.

In the face of this, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Dennis Hunter said that if the appellate court ruled to vacate, prosecutors might appeal to the state supreme court to have the convictions upheld. One wonders what he'd use to argue this, outside of simply pointing to the integrity of the system.

But Prosecutor Hunter isn't really one of the villains of this piece. Given that the case is seemingly on pretty shaky ground, he's going to have to attack the credibility of Spencer's now adult children - claiming that they were more credible at 9 and 5 years old, than they are now, perhaps by simply calling them liars motivated by some twisted love for an abusive father, or by taking the mother's tack that they'd managed to forget being violently and repeatedly sexually assaulted. But he's threatening to do this because he, like a lot of prosecutors, understands that (along with the police department) his office better maintains its credibility through fighting for a shaky case than admitting that they have helped put a man away for nearly a third of his life.

There's something wrong with that picture.

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