Youth Services Law

Showing 3 posts from January 2013.

High-Profile Laws May Not Protect Children

I ran across a very interesting article by David Finkelhor, one of the giants in child abuse research. He reviewed two popular attempts to prevent child abuse -- laws aimed at managing offenders and programs aimed at educating children. He concludes that offender management laws are based on invalid assumptions, have little scientific support, and have unintended consequences that outweigh any marginal benefits.  In other words, if legislators were bound by the Daubert and Frye standards that rule courtrooms, offender registries and geographic restrictions never would have seen the light of day.

Prevention education programs have more support in the research, or at least have fewer bad side effects.  Devising fully effective programs, however, will require more research.

More Recovered Memory Rulings

Child's MindOn the same day as the Minnesota opinion, the federal district court for Massachusetts ruled that competing expert testimony regarding repressed memories met Daubert standards. (It is perhaps no surprise that two of the three experts in the Massachusetts case also had testified in the Minnesota case.)

The Massachusetts opinion is thorough, and an extremely good review of the case law and research in the field. The judge clearly was concerned about the reliability of recovered memories, but concluded that the scientific evidence just barely met the threshold for admission. The trial proceeded, but the parties settled before the jury returned a verdict.

Courts Wrestle with Recovered Memories

Child's MindThe most recent state court to deal with claims of repressed or recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse is the Minnesota Supreme Court, where the plaintiff sought to use his claim of recovered memories as a way to toll the statute of limitations. In Doe v. Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, the court last summer concluded that the theory did not meet standards of  the Frye test.  The court conducted a thorough review of the testimony in the trial court, and both sides had very distinguished experts to present their argument.

The opinion is one of the better analyses of the subject that I have read.  It gets right to the heart of the matter in noting that claims of repressed memories cannot be validated, and that the theory does not adequately explain how repressed memories differ from other types of forgetting and recalling details.

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