Statistics Don't Equal Truth in Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Dallas Appeals Court Rules

A recent opinion out of a state appeals court in Dallas sheds no light on whether Scott Wiseman of Garland is a complete scumbag. It does, however, make one thing clear: Prosecutors, do not let your expert witnesses opine on the statistical likelihood that your victim is telling the truth. Your conviction will get overturned.

In 2005, a 13-year-old summertime latchkey kid invited her 14-year-old boyfriend, who we'll call "I.R.," over for sex while her mother was at work. I.R., she claims, showed up with a 42-year-old Wiseman. She says I.R. told her Wiseman was his uncle. Over the course of two weeks, she allegedly slept with both of them, and not always separately. She testified that she felt weird about it, but did it anyway because it was what I.R. wanted, and she loved him.

The girl later found out that Wiseman was not, in fact, I.R.'s uncle at all. He was the father of I.R.'s other girlfriend. I.R. eventually dumped the 13-year-old for this other girl, and the former reported Wiseman, who was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Wiseman denied it all. The girl, his attorneys claimed, sought revenge against Wiseman's daughter, who stole her boyfriend. I.R. denied he ever brought Wiseman to the girl's home. Prosecutors pointed out that this statement conflicted with a recorded phone conversation and with previous statements he'd made to the police. I.R. said the police pressured him, and that the voice on the phone call was not his.

Suffice it to say, the credibility of the teenage witnesses, or lack thereof, would win the day. Prosecutors called to the stand an expert witness who claimed only 2 percent of child sex abuse allegations were false, and often involved custody battles. The judge had earlier ruled such testimony was prejudicial and wouldn't fly, but ruled later that Wiseman's attorney had opened the door for it on cross examination.

This, the state appeals court ruled, was the state's fatal mistake. "It substituted the expert witness for the jury, whose responsibility it was to assess the credibility of witnesses," they wrote, overturning the district court's verdict. Wiseman may be retried.

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Brantley Hargrove