The forensic interviewer, Stacy Long, failed to adopt a hypothesis testing approach, and instead proceed with a confirmatory bias. This bias impacted the entire architecture of this investigation and opened the doors for multiple investigative errors that included:
Multiple Interviews Over Time
JH did not make a spontaneous allegation of sexual abuse against Brad Wade. Instead, beginning in December of 2005, he was questioned multiple times by his mother, Kathleen Williams, who believed that "something was going on." Despite her questioning him "three or four times," JH denied that Brad was abusing him. Then, on April 16, 2006, after wishing aloud that Brad Wade was no longer part of the family, he was again questioned by his brother Eric. Of course, there is no objective documentation of any of these conversations. Once JH made the allegation, Eric questioned him again the following morning. He was also questioned by Det. Cooley. That interview was not objectively documented, and it should have been. He was then interviewed by Stacy Long on April 18, 2006. Prior to trial, he was deposed, in a most leading fashion, by Brad Wade's divorce lawyer. The possible influence of his family and the multiple interviews over time is potentially suggestive. The forensic interviewer should have made an effort to assess the impact, but she did not.
Failure to Screen for Coaching and Third Party Influence
Despite having been questioned repeatedly, over time, by family members, during the forensic interview, Stacy Long does not ask JH about the nature of these conversations or about what others said to him or asked him. She also fails to inquire about the behavior and demeanor of those who questioned him or about what conversations regarding Brad Wade happened in his presence. The forensic interviewer failed to ask about the family's attitude toward Brad Wade, prior to the allegations, and she should have asked. She also failed to fully explore JH's conversations with Eric on April 16th and 17th.
Failure to Challenge Improbable Elements
JH alleges that some of the incidents occurred in the upstairs bedroom at the home of Brad and Rhona Wade. That upstairs bedroom is an open loft area. He alleges that some of the incidents happened when others were in the house or present. These elements of the allegations seem improbable, but the forensic interviewer fails to ask JH clarifying questions with regard to these details.
Failure to Screen for Potential for Secondary Gain
JH told his brother Eric that he wanted Brad Wade out of the family. JH tells the forensic interviewer that he hopes that Brad will soon be his ex-brother-in-law. While it is possible that the reason for this is that JH was being abused, the interviewer failed to consider or even ask about any other possible reasons why JH might be angry with Brad, such as Brad telling AW to ignore him.
Improper Use of Leading and Suggestive Questions
Stacy Long's interview of JH is replete with leading and suggestive questions, and on a number of occasions, JH changes his answer, following her lead. For example:
Stacy: Ok. JH did he ever try to kiss you?
Stacy: Or rub on you in any way or..
JH: Oh, yeah.
Stacy: Tell me about that.
JH: Uh, like, uh, he (inaudible) you know (inaudible) like a friendly kiss or whatever.
JH: Like, he's do it with BW, PW, AW
JH: He'd try to do that to me, which I think he did.
Stacy: Ok. When you say friendly kiss, what do you mean?
JH: Just like kissing on the lips.
Stacy: Ok. Alright. so, he tried to do that?
JH: Yeah, I think he did that like, once or twice, holding me down.
In the above series, JH, in response to a very direct question, says that Brad Wade did not ever kiss him, but he quickly changes his statement and includes significant detail. Here's another example:
Stacy: Did he make any comments about the size of it?
JH: Huh u.
Stacy: Ok. (inaudible) In comparison to his...
JH: Oh, yeah.
And, a third example:
Stacy: Ok. alright. And when it happened, what did he want you to do while you were in the car:
JH: Just look at it.
Stacy: Ok. Did he want you to masturbate?
JH: Uh, just that one time I believe.
Stacy: Did he ever touch you?
JH: In the car?
Stacy: Uh huh
And fourth example:
Stacy: Alright. And then at his house. Did it happen in one room or more than one room?
JH: One room
Stacy: What room?
JH: The upstairs bedroom.
Stacy: Ok. Alright. What would you be doing up in the bedroom...not what he was doing, were you up there alone and he came there, were you two up there, like....
JH: I was like, taking a shower.
Stacy: Ok. And then what...what....Brad just came up there or what?
JH: Well. Yeah, I guess so, like. Yeah.
Stacy: He wouldn't be up there when you went to get in the shower?
JH: I think, sometimes.
JH's story seems to expand and grow over the course of this interview, and by the time he is deposed in April of 2007, the story has expanded even further in terms of the number of times athe alleged abuse occurred. Ms. Long's extremely direct and leading questions were inappropriate in a forensic interview and may have tainted JH's answers.
Documentation is Inadequate
All interviews, including Det. Cooley's interview of JH, should have been recorded.
The forensic interview of JH by Stacy Long is riddled with errors and improper technique and represents a missed opportunity to discover whether or not JH's allegations were influenced by anything other than his own experience. As a result, the reliability of JH's statements may have been negatively impacted by improper forensic technique.
I also evaluated the forensic interviews of AW. After initial and repeated denials, after spending time in therapy with a psychologist who expressed a belief that he has been abused though AW never alleged that he was a victim, AW changed his original story to conform to the statements of his friend, JH.
Confirmatory bias on the part of Stacy Long allowed her to accept AW's second statement as factual while discounting his contradictory first statement. Further, her bias toward confirming the allegations in the case allowed her to inappropriately re-interview AW just days before trial and nearly a year after his initial denial. Further, she failed in this second interview to inquire about whether AW had been under any pressure from anyone to "come forward." There is absolutely no basis for deciding that AW's statements in the second interview are more reliable than his statements in the first interview. I noted the following errors:
Multiple Interviews Over Time
In addition to his two interviews with Stacy Long, AW was also repeatedly questioned in therapy. For example, he was asked to consider what it meant to have a father who was a sex offender. Further, during the year between the two interviews, he had little family support for standing behind his father-even if his statements were true.
Failure to Assess Third Party Influence or Coaching
Before the second forensic interview begins, a man (his step-father) comes in the room and prays with AW. Because the content of the prayer is focused on disclosure, this was particularly inappropriate. The forensic interviewer should have considered the impact of this prayer and talked with AW about how these allegations were discussed in the family and in therapy over the course of the last year. The forensic interviewer missed the opportunity to screen for third party influence.
Failure to Consider Impact of Family Dysfunction
The forensic interviewer should have asked questions designed to assess the impact of family conflict and dysfunction. With a divorce ongoing and the apparent conflict between family members as evidenced by the report to law enforcement regarding threats, it would have been important to understand if and how AW was impacted by the family's opinion of his father.
Use of Leading and Suggestive Questions
Again, in this interview, Stacy Long relies on very leading and suggestive questions. She frequently provided answers in the context of multiple choice and forced choice questions.
Potential for Secondary Gain
The interviewer fails to establish how Brad Wade was viewed by the family. Further, the therapy record reflects that AW was accused of inappropriately touching his younger sister. These two facts could have created a situation where AW thought it to his advantage to "side with his family" against his father. If he was in trouble for his actions with his sister, then it is likely that he would not have wanted to be identified with someone who was arrested for sexual abuse. This forensic interviewer failed to explore any of this with AW.
AW made two contradictory statements. Based on his statements and the inappropriate techniques used here, there is no way to know which statement is accurate. It is erroneous to assume that because one statement better fits the investigator's theory of the case, it is the one that is accurate.
Behavior and Demeanor of the Children
I evaluated the behavior and demeanor of AW and JH as reflected in the records available for review. Based on this review, it appears the despite alleging that sexual abuse was ongoing, JH repeatedly chose to be alone with Brad Wade and repeated denied that he was being abused when he was asked directly. This is not consistent with typical behavior and demeanor of a child who was being sexually abused. Similarly, AW, who allegedly witnessed abuse, made repeated efforts to be with his father, Brad Wade. Even after his father was arrested, the therapy record indicates that he was negotiating with his family for some kind of contact with his father. This is not typical for a child who has witnessed sexual abuse.
The improper and inadequate interview techniques and lack of evidence other than the children's improperly obtained statements makes reliability a significant concern in this case. Further, the children's relationship with the defendant coupled with their overall functioning as reflected in this record is not consistent with the allegations made in this case. Finally, substantial evidence exists that was not made available to the defense expert or the jury in this case. Even with the available evidence, the problems with these two forensic interviews are significant, and expert opinion with regard to these techniques could have been presented at trial.
Since initially preparing this report, I have had the opportunity to review additional evidence and to further review original evidence in this matter. Specifically, I have reviewed:
1) 4/21/2006 Forensic Interview of AW, tape, transcript and forensic report
2) forensic Interview of PW, tape, transcript and forensic report
3) Forensic Interview of BW, tape, transcript and forensic report
4) Forensic Interview of Angela Brooke Wade, tape, transcript and forensic report
5) School Records of JH
6) Medical Records of JH from Children's Health System and Reddy Clinic
Based on my review of these records, it is my opinion that this evidence underscores and exacerbates the problems with the forensic interviews in this case and raises new issues that were not reflected i the trial transcript.
Forensic Interview of AW on 4/21/2006
The statements of AW on 4/21/2006 reflect not simply the absence of accusation of his father, Brad Wade, but his affirmative denial that his father could have or would have done such a thing. At the beginning and at the end of the interview, AW affirms and reaffirms his intention to tell the truth. This is the interview that occurred closest to the time of the alleged offense, before AW was involved in counseling that was "How to get AW to discuss issues pertaining to his father as he appears to be repressing this." The therapy that followed was directed toward that goal and as such could have influenced AW's statements in the second interview.
Additionally, between the first and second interviews, AW was himself accused of inappropriately touching his eight year old half sister. Instead of seeing the second interview in the essential context of the first interview and the intervening suggestive therapy, the jury simply viewed the second interview in a vacuum. This is especially true considering this statement on his "Child and Family Questionnaire" in this therapy file:
How would you describe the child as a person?
(From Parent) "loving, but difficult child, headstrong, likes things his way, manipulative, and sneaky. Has problems with being honest and likes to please others."
When parents are self-reporting that a child has a problem being honest, and that the child likes to please others, it is reasonable to assume that this is a child with whom adults should take special care to avoid influence. Instead, he was interviewed, suggestively, twice, a year apart and engaged in very suggestive, biased therapy in between. In addition:
1) AW says that his dad (Brad Wade) "wouldn't do that."
2) Repeatedly, during this interview, the forensic interviewer's responses to AW assertion that his father could not have done this reflected her confirmatory bias that Brad Wade was guilty. Though AW resists her influence during the first interview, it is this bias that led her to do the second interview at all and then led her to give the second interview greater weight than the first. For example, Ms. Long says, "But what I am going to tell you is your dad has been accused of molesting a teenage guy. Those are your words, okay. Not many teenage guys are going to come out and accuse somebody of that. Okay? Just for the heck of doing it. Okay? Whey would anyone do that?"
3) In addition to stating that he knows that his father would not do this, in the first interview, he also says that he knows the accuser is not "JH."
4) AW wants to see his father and requests to do so during the interview. This is not the action of a child who was fearful of their father.
Forensic Interview of BW(Brad's youngest son)(pay close attention to what Mrs. Morton has to say about this one)
Though BW was only three years old, his forensic interview produced information relevant to the facts of this case, but it was ignored by the investigators. First of all, BW, who lived in a home with six people, or more, at times, and only two bedrooms, gave no indication at all of having witnessed anything inappropriate between Brad Wade and JH. Since he was a potential eye witness, the absence of a disclosure on his part is information that should have been considered when weighing other statements in this case. In addition, reflecting her single-minded bias, during the course of this forensic interview, BW tells Ms Long repeatedly about being touched and tickled in private parts including his "butt" and his "willie" by a boy or boys, but because of her focus on Brad Wade, Ms. Long fails to ask sufficient clarifying questions to allow her to asses whether someone other than Brad Wade had inappropriately touched this child. Later, in a separate interview, Brooke disclosed that AW and JH showered together on more than one occasion. Given this history, it would have been important for this interview to do more than ask one or two follow up questions to try to determine who BW was talking about. This interview was not made available to the jury, and in her report and in her testimony, Ms Long simply says there was "no disclosure" and does not mention the allegations made toward "the boys."
Forensic Interview of PW ( Brad's youngest daughter, twin to BW)
Like her twin brother, PW did not disclose any information supporting the allegations in this case during her forensic interview. Again, the absence of such a disclosure give the crowded household and the proximity of the upstairs bedroom to the rest of the house, is important information to consider in light of the statements of the allegations. She is aware of where it is and is not okay for someone to touch her, so it is reasonable to assume that had she witnessed or experienced inappropriate touching she would've known that it was inappropriate.
Forensic Interview of Angela "Brooke" Wade
Though Brooke Wade did not spend a great deal of time in her father's home, her observations in the forensic interview are relevant to this case. First of all, Brooke pointed to a close relationship between AW and his father and the crowded household as reasons she rarely visited. Other than affirming that her father did go into the bathroom when the boys were showering, she did not provide any information that supports the statements of JH. Instead, she denies having seen any type of inappropriate touching in that home. Further, she contradicts AW to affirm that JH and AW did, in fact, shower together on more than one occasion.
Ok, its me here. I just want to say that the reason Brad would go into the bathroom would be to tell one of the boys to get out and let the other one finish their shower. One at a time. And Rhona also requested he do so. Just sayin.
School and Medical Records of JH
Typically, children who are victims of abuse exhibit some types of symptoms of that abuse. for example, school grades often fall or they may have increased somatic complaints. Not all children respond in the same way, but in the case of JH, there appear to be few behavioral indicators of abuse. For example, according to his school records, his performance was fairly static during the time the abuse was allegedly ongoing, and in a "social history" note in his medical file on 10/23/2006, there was no mention of the allegations. Instead, the file reads, "The patient lives with Both parents together. There are 1 siblings living in the home. The pt. is in the 10th grade. Comments: Doing well in school."
Most if not all of the information referenced in this addendum was not reflected in the transcript of the trial. Much of this information directly contradicts and calls into question testimony given at trial.
Ok. That is Amy H. Morton's affidavit. It sums things up in a nutshell!! Back again soon!