A lawsuit against three former Michigan prosecutors accuses them of relying on dubious evidence to charge the parents of a severely disabled girl with sexually assaulting her. In her opening statements on Oct. 9, the couple’s attorney accused the defendants of allowing political ambition to interfere with their duty to serve the interests of justice.
Authorities arrested the couple late in 2007. They are the parents of a severely autistic daughter who cannot speak. The arrest and charges were largely based on a message that the then-14-year-old girl “typed” with the help of a school aide.
The technique for making this message is called “facilitated communication,” and it has largely been debunked. A Detroit Free Press story from December 2007 explained how extensive research into facilitated communication showed that the person holding the autistic person’s hand usually was the one doing the actual communicating, even if unconsciously.
Despite this, the then-Oakland County prosecutor went ahead with the charges. He assigned two assistant prosecutors to the case, who pursued the case despite a lack of any reliable evidence that the couple raped their daughter.
The couple spent more than 80 days in jail before the prosecution finally dropped the charges. Their attorney told the jury in their civil suit that the reason the charges were not dropped sooner was that the prosecutors had political aspirations and wanted media attention. Both assistant prosecutors later ran unsuccessfully for judge positions.
An attorney for the defendants in the suit blamed the parents themselves for their arrests, along with the local police department, the girl’s school district and the state of Michigan.
Source: Detroit Free Press, “Attorney: Prosecutors ignored truth in charging couple,” L.L. Brasier, Oct. 9, 2014