The last two years of 12-year-old Becca McEvoy's short life were spent living with sexual abuse by her stepfather, Bob Inge (pictured left). It’s not all that unusual, unfortunately, to hear of horrendous sex abuse stories where step-dads are molesting, raping, and running their step-daughters through the Penal Code. But this case is heinous on so many more levels that even the truest believers out there should be motivated to see that certain laws need amending—fast!
So what makes this case so wrong?
1. The defendant is Corporal Bob Inge, once a police officer with the Chickasaw Police Department;
2. The defendant is now out of custody and is living with young children as he awaits the court’s ruling;
3. The defendant was arrested in 2006, and Becca died in March 2008, in an unforeseen car accident; and
4. The Supreme Court decision from Crawford v Washington will probably let this pedophile walk.
As a result of the Crawford decision, the validity of firmly rooted hearsay exceptions has been called into question. Performing the “indicia of reliability” or “trustworthiness” test for hearsay statements has been abolished because Crawford overruled the decision in Ohio v Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, back in 1980.
So how does Crawford work? When deciding whether a hearsay statement will be admissible at trial without the declarant testifying, courts apply the following formula:
Step 1. Is the hearsay statement testimonial? Was the statement made to a government agent? Did a government agent question the declarant? Would the declarant reasonably expect that the statement would later be used at trial?
a. If the answer is no, then utilize your state’s Rules of Evidence to determine whether the hearsay statement falls into a recognized exception which may negate the need for the declarant to testify.
b. If the answer is yes, then proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Have the declarant testify and be subject to cross-examination.
a. If the declarant is unavailable, but testified at a prior proceeding and was subject to cross-examination, the transcript of the prior testimony will be admissible and other admissible hearsay statements will also be allowed (such as statements made during a forensic interview).
b. If the witness/victim is unavailable and has never testified in any proceeding in the case, then all hearsay statements will be inadmissible.
What you may notice in this formula’s short checklist is that there is no Step 3. That means if a witness is no longer available (and death certainly qualifies) and (i) there is no other exception to the hearsay rule that would apply or (ii) there hasn’t been any testimony subject to cross-examination, we are basically left with 2 choices.
One, we can hope that there are other ways to make the case (DNA, other victims, defendant’s admissions, etc.) or, two, the case can get dismissed.
While it seems convenient to say, “Well, let’s try to prove the case by some other means,” that is problematic, especially when your perp is a cop. I mean, do you really think a cop is going to confess or admit to his wrongdoings? And do you think he left any evidence around?
Think about, it. Sex crimes happen in the most secretive of ways in the most covert places. If this guy is even a third-rate cop, don’t you think he covered his tracks? And it’s not as if sex crime perps leave a ton of evidence, even in the best investigations. We all know that the defendant isn’t at all concerned about leaving his evidence in the victim’s heart and mind: permanent scars of abuse.
I am all about defendants having rights. But what about the victim’s rights, and victims before her? Why does Bill Inge get a pass? Why does a child molester get to walk free as we all sit back and wait for him to do it again?
So, what’s the answer? The answer is to carve out an exception.
How about a specific child sexual assault exception where grand jury testimony could be admitted in a trial? (Becca testified at TWO prior grand jury hearings.) How about hearsay statements made to a police officer coupled with grand jury testimony to ensure reliability and consistency? How about testimony where a child has said same thing to a number of civilians as corroboration to police testimony and grand jury testimony? The point is there should be alternative exceptions. There are ways to ensure reliability and trustworthiness and therefore, there should be a way to get Becca’s voice heard and not let the men who disgraced his position as stepdad and cop go free.
Note: This post and all other posts by Robin Sax represent Robin's personal opinion and NOT the opinion of the LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY nor the LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE.Tweet