Saturday, July 25, 2009

Caution in Interviewing Child Witnesses

Here is an interesting, disturbing, story from New Orleans in the last few weeks...A public defender and an investigator were held in contempt of court for trying to interview a 12-year-old girl and her 8-year-old sister in connection with a rape case without permission from the children's mother. The investigator was apparently a new investigator. The story serves as a reminder that when interviewing witnesses, it is important to follow any court rules, statutes, and regulations on the interviewing of witnesses, especially minors. Of course, when police are conducting interviews, especially when the juvenile is a suspect, often the police are not required to contact parents. Nevertheless, ending up in jail doesn't help any client out. The next hearing on this case is in August and will be interesting to watch. Full article here:
The arrest silenced the courtroom briefly, as a deputy escorted the young woman to Central Lockup. She was released on a $4,000 personal recognizance bond within a half-hour, court records show.

Beasley, who only weeks ago walked through graduation ceremonies at Tulane University, started working for the Orleans Parish public defenders program on June 9.

A month later, she broke the rules of criminal court procedure by interviewing the two girls without parental consent, Judge Frank Marullo ruled today after a five-hour hearing.

"I think the Constitution speaks loud and clear on the rights of victims," Marullo said. "It says in there they can refuse (interviews). They're talking directly to the child. I find that really egregious."

Marullo set the contempt sentencing for Aug. 12. Attorney Kendall Green, a senior public defender, and Beasley face up to six months in jail for the contempt finding. Public defender Dan Engelberg, also accused with contempt by prosecutors, was acquitted by Marullo.

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