AMY H. MORTON, who, after being duly sworn, deposes and states on oath the following.
At the request of defense counsel for Bradley Wade, Linda S. Sheffield, I have reviewed the following materials related to the above-referenced matter and have evaluated the appropriateness of the interview techniques used by the investigators. In addition, I have considered whether the behavior and demeanor of JH and AW, as portrayed in the material reviewed, is consistent or inconsistent with typical behavior and demeanor of victims of sexual abuse or witness to sexual abuse.
1) 04/18/2006 Videotaped Forensic Interview of JH by Stacy Long
2) "Supplemental Report #0606," Transcript of the 04/18/2006 Forensic Interview of JH by Stacy Long.
3) 04/18/2006 Videotaped Forensic Interview of AW by Stacy Long
4) 05/31/2006 "Forensic Interview Report" Regarding the 04/18/2006 Forensic Interview of JH by Stacy Long
5) 04/30/2007 Fax Cover Sheet from Levitt & Levitt to Dr. Eric S. Engum Regarding the "Forensic Interview Report"
6) 05/17/2006 Dekalb County Alabama Uniform Incident/Offense Report filed by Rhona Wade alleging, "Threats Made"
7) 05/14-05/17/2007 Trial Transcript of State of Georgia vs Bradley T. Wade
8) 10/18/2006 "Volume II" of Deposition of Rhona K. Wade
9) 04/27/2007 Deposition of JH
10) Calendars, Defense Exhibit # 14
11) Photograph, State's Exhibit # 4
12) Photographs of House, Defense Exhibits # 1-8
13) "My Seizure Diary," Defense Exhibit # 9
14) Information Regarding Keppra, Defense Exhibit # 10
15) Email Correspondence Between Bradley Wade and Angie Elia, Defense Exhibit #11
16) Mental Health Records of Angela Brooke Wade, Including Psychological Evaluation, at The Relationship Therapy Center
17) Mental Health Records of AW, Including Psychological Evaluation, from The Relationship Therapy Center
18) Mental Health Records of AW from the LMJC Children's Advocacy Center
19) Medical Record Release Authorization for JH and One Sheet of Medical Notes for Dates of Service, 01/26/2004, 01/10/2005 and 01/11/2005, Defense Exhibit # 12 & #13
20) 03/2005 Essay, " Commendable Husbands" by Rhona Wade
21) Investigative Summary and Case Notes for Case #0604 4408 by Jennifer L. Cooley
Based upon my review of these records, it is my opinion that the interview methods used with the children in this case did not follow standard and accepted protocols and were inappropriately leading and suggestive. There is substantial risk that the statements of both JH and AW could have been corrupted by the investigative process utilized in this case. The entire architecture of the interviews and the investigative process was tainted by confirmatory bias on the part of the investigators and the forensic interviewer. This bias opened the door for inappropriate techniques that included multiple interviews over time, many leading and suggestive questions and an overwhelming failure on the part of the interviewers to attempt to rule out coaching or third party influence from peers, family, counselors or others familiar with the allegations. Further, this bias led investigators to ignore or explain away inconsistent, contradictory and improbable elements in the allegations and to focus only on the facts that tended to support their theory of the case.
Further, potentially exculpatory evidence related to the forensic interviews was not available for my review, not in the defense file and not presented to the jury at trial. For example, multiple videotaped interviews of children who could or should have been present during the alleged abuse were not included in the file. This evidence included a videotape and related " Forensic Interview Report" of AW on 04/21/2006 that reportedly contradicted statements in an interview more than one year later.
In addition, after reviewing the above records, I find that the behavior and demeanor of both AW, who testified to witnessing abuse, and JH, who testified that he was abused, was in many ways inconsistent with what would be typically expected from children who has such experiences.
In 2002, Bradley Wade and Rhona Wade were married. Brad had been married previously, and fathered two children, AW and Brooke Wade. Brad and Rhona had twins. BW and PW. JH, the younger brother of Rhona Wade, was good friends with AW, Brad's son through the previous marriage. Until December of 2005, JH was frequent visitor in the home of Bradley and Rhona Wade. According to JH, sometime before Christmas of 2005, his mother Kathleen, asked him "out of nowhere" whether Brad Wade was "doing anything" to him. JH denied that Brad was doing anything to him, but Kathleen continued to question him about it, asking him about it on "about four occasions." Around Christmas of 2005 Kathleen Williams (JH's Mother) stopped contact between her son-in-law, Brad Wade and her son, JH. JH said that contact stopped, "Because my mom thought-had a feeling then that something was up.." On April 16, 2006, JH expressed to his brother, Eric Casey, that he wished that Brad was not a part of the family. As Eric questioned him, JH made the first allegation of sexual abuse against Brad Wade, accusing him of a SINGLE incident in the upstairs bedroom of Brad and Rhona's home. Eric questioned JH again the next morning, April 17th. On that same day, Kathleen Williams contacted law enforcement, and Jennifer Cooley also questioned JH, though, Det. Cooley failed to objectively document that interview. Her report omitted critical detail including what questions she asked, where the interview took place and who was present. On April 18th, JH was again interviewed, this time by Stacy Long, forensic interviewer with the LMJC Children's Advocacy Center. During this interview, JH made allegations regarding incidents in Alabama and, perhaps, Georgia (in a car on the interstate). In addition to interviewing JH, on April 21, 2006, Ms. Long interviewed AW, a supposed eyewitness to some of the alleged events. The videotape of that interview was not available for my review, but Ms. Long testified that AW "did not disclose" in that interview. On April 25th 2006, Ms. Long interviewed Brooke Wade, PW, And BW. According to Ms. Long's testimony, these interviews were videotaped, but those recording were not available for my review. According to Ms. Long's testimony, neither child "disclosed." Then, a year later, on April 18, 2007, Ms. Long re-interviewed AW who then alleged witnessing a portion of the abuse alleged by JH. Finally, on April 27, 2007, JH was deposed by Brad Wade's divorce lawyer, Sherry Dobbins. At the trial of this of this case on May 14-17, 2007, despite the fact the Dr. Eric Engum had reviewed the forensic interviews, the defense offered no expert witness to address either the appropriateness of the forensic interview techniques used or whether the behavior and demeanor of JH and AW was typical of children who had witnessed or experienced sexual abuse. On May 17, 2007, Brad Wade was convicted of child molestation and sexual battery.
Critical evidence was absent fro the trial file. Based on my review, evidence critical to a fully formed expert analysis of the forensic interviewing techniques is absent from the trial file. Defense should have obtained, and an expert should have reviewed:
- The videotape and Forensic Interview Reports of the forensic interview with AW conducted on April 21, 2006.
-The videotapes and the Forensic Interview Reports of the forensic interviews with Brooke Wade, PW and BW.
-The Forensic Interview Report for the April 18, 2006 Forensic Interview of AW.
-The counseling records of JH
-The school records of JH
-The medical records of JH
In his handwritten notes regarding the April 18, 2007 interview of AW, in reference to the previous interview, Dr. Engum writes, "Prior interview(Where is it?). Is it exculpatory?" Clearly, he recognized that this was a potential issue, yet there is nothing in the record to indicate that he was ever provided with this tape. All of the interviews and the therapy notes should have been provided to this expert. The interview was also not presented by the defense at trial. In fact, this video is not in the defense file at all. Based on Ms. Long's testimony at trial, it appears likely that AW's statements in this interview contradicted his statements in the interview nearly one year later and AW's testimony at trial. The expert should have been provided with this tape so that he could evaluate the change in the child's statement in context and comment on the interviewer's technique and issues such as the impact of multiple interviews (both forensic and clinical in therapy) over time and the impact of family/peer pressure. Likewise, the expert should have evaluated the interviews of the other children, Brooke, PW and BW. Since they could have been in the home when the alleged incidents occurred, the absence of them witnessing anything could be significant, and their statements to the interviewer might or might not have contradicted other testimony.
Similarly, the school records, mental health records and medical records of JH should have been obtained and at least submitted to the court for and in camera review. Such records may be exculpatory because they may, for example, include documentation of a child making contradictory statements to a teacher, counselor or doctor regarding the allegations. Such records may also provide information regarding the child's behavior and demeanor and impacts an expert's opinion with regard to whether the child's behavior and demeanor is consistent or inconsistent with that of a victim or witness of sexual abuse.
In order to fully and appropriately evaluate the interview techniques in a given case, the expert must examine evidence of each and every interview that was conducted with children who were alleged victims of or witnesses to the incidents alleged in the indictment. Additionally, beginning with the first outcry, the expert must construct a disclosure timeline that includes, as fully as possible, each and every conversation the child had regarding the allegations from first outcry to the present. This did not occur in this case. Based on the record available, Dr. Engim, at the request of defense counsel, did review the April 18, 2007 videotaped interview with AW, the April 18, 2006 interview of JH and the May 31, 2006 Forensic Interview Report regarding the JH interview. The defense arrorney's purpose in asking Dr. Engum to review these interviews is not clear. Dr. Engum is psychologist specializing in neuropsychology. His curriculum vitae is not included in the file, so his qualifications for evaluating forensic interviewing techniques are not apparent. Regardless, his six pages of handwritten notes regarding the two interviews he did review are extremely difficult to read, but throughout he does draw attention to several problem areas in each interview, making reference specifically to the missing tape, the leading questions and the pressure that was placed on AW through the prayer prior to his second interview. Forensic interviewing is a highly specialized skill, and, improperly done, the interviewer can influence the child's statements. Nevertheless, Dr. Engum did not testify at trial.
Before examining the specific interview techniques used in this case, it is important to briefly review the scientific basis for the existing protocols for forensic interviewing. Because of the potential for those who question children to influence the child's statements or their actual memories of personally salient events, testimony regarding appropriate investigative interview techniques with children is admissible in Georgia courts. Experts, attorneys and others involved in the legal system frequently and errantly assume that suggestibility is only a potential problem in investigative interviews with the youngest children. In fact, the most current research indicates that age is but one factor impacting suggestibility and that older children, teens, and even adults can be vulnerable to post-event suggestion. Additionally, formal protocols for forensic interviewing, including those developed by the National Child Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Alabama, address the particular developmental challenges when interviewing older children and adolescents and indicate what techniques are appropriate and which should be used and which should be avoided.
The next several paragraphs talk about protocol in interviewing children. Pointing out key techniques that should be followed, that were not. It cites several different case laws and such.
I evaluated the forensic interview of JH. When interviewing JH, forensic interviewer, Stacy Long, made multiple critical errors. In addition, through his responses, JH revealed that he is easily influenced to agree with the suggestive and leading questions of the interviewer.
I will continue with Amy Morton's affidavit on my next blog. Starting with her pointing out exactly where Stacy Long went wrong.