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False Sexual Assault Accusations and Convictions

Being accused of a crime as an innocent person is devastating. Even when a jury returns a not guilty verdict or the prosecution drops the charges, the allegations alone live on long after the case. A wrongful conviction based on faulty eyewitness identification, perjury or misconduct by the prosecution is an even greater injustice.

In the Boulder-area, several complaints of unwanted or unlawful sexual contact have turned out to be fabricated. The most recent report that proved unfounded was in January 2012, when a University of Colorado student reported that she was assaulted near campus. Police found that the evidence conflicted with the allegations. The woman later admitted the claim was false when asked about these differences. She received a citation of false reporting.

False reporting is damaging. It is more difficult for the police to investigate actual crimes, since resources are diverted to investigating false reports instead of real crimes. Even when allegations of sexual abuse are supported, the wrong person can be convicted.

The University of Michigan and Northwestern University have recently teamed up to create a database of faulty convictions as recognized by prosecutors, judges or governors. Many of those convicted have later been exonerated through DNA testing. One of the major findings of the registry is that of the registry's 203 sexual assault cases, 80 percent involved mistaken eyewitness identification.

University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, the registry's editor, stated that, "what this shows is that the criminal justice system makes mistakes, and they are more common than people think." The registry found that one of the most common problems was that the prosecution failed to disclose evidence that might have been helpful to the defense.

For anyone accused of a Colorado sex crime, it is important to contact a qualified attorney, who can play a vital role in ensuring the prosecution respects your rights.

Source: USA Today, "Wrongful convictions shine spotlight on judicial system," Kevin Johnson, May 20, 2012.

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