Key witness recants child sex abuse charges eighteen years later

Four Texas women received lengthy prison sentences after two girls accused them of sexual abuse. Now, 18 years after the case began, one of the two key witnesses completely recanted her testimony. Even though the witness now says she leveled false allegations against the women, all four remain in prison and exoneration appears doubtful.

In 1994, two girls aged seven and nine claimed that their aunt and three other women sexually abused them. The sisters' testimony provided the bulk of the evidence against the women. However, throughout the four trials, the girls' testimony changed repeatedly. Basic details like timing, use of weapons, and the identities of the attackers changed several times, including while the girls were on the witness stand.

Although these discrepancies appear throughout the record, juries convicted all four women. Three of the women are serving 15 year sentences but the aunt, fingered by the girls as the ringleader, received over 37 years in prison.

Questions about these trials persisted for years. A criminal defense non-profit organization took an interest in the cases, in part because of suspicious medical evidence, the girls' testimony, and possible jury bias. Another problem is that no child psychologist examined the girls until months had passed.

The case may get a fresh look now that the younger girl says that the attack never happened. Authorities are apparently talking with the non-profit organization about how best to proceed. If the women are to receive exoneration, however, it would probably be the result of yet another trial. As it is, they have already spent almost half of their lives in prison-potentially as the result of false charges.

Source: My San Antonio, "Women recants accusation of sex assault," Michelle Mondo, Sept. 17, 2012

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