Friday, March 24, 2006

Recanted child abuse testimony

Nashville news:
Sentenced six years ago to 55 years in prison for rape and sexual abuse, Ben Kiper's conviction rested solely on the testimony of his accuser, his 10-year-old stepdaughter.

There was no physical evidence, no medical exam and no testimony from any corroborating witnesses at his trial in 2000 in Butler Circuit Court.

So when the girl, now 16, recanted her allegations last October -- swearing under oath that her stepmother forced her to falsely accuse Kiper during a custody dispute -- you might have expected the 35-year-old inmate to go free, or at least win a new trial.

"It is simply intolerable if a state allows an innocent person to remain incarcerated on the basis of lies," one of his attorneys wrote a month later.

But five months after the recantation, Kiper remains at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City. And he may well stay there, because courts have traditionally viewed such testimony with great suspicion. Some have said no form of evidence is more unreliable.

The thinking is that witnesses can be too easily coerced into changing their testimony. Plus, when witnesses change their story, it inherently calls their credibility into question.
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News is on a big campaign to pass Jessica's Law to mandate very long prison sentences in cases like this. He argues that anyone who disagrees must not care about children. He should have a guest on his program to tell the stories of men serving long sentences based on the flimsiest evidence.

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