Contact: Gina Lauterio
Expert Panel Calls on Lawmakers to Bring an End to Campus ‘Kangaroo Court’ Investigations
WASHINGTON / October 11, 2016 – Warning “victim-centered” investigations are “inconsistent with basic notions of fairness and justice,” an Expert Panel has issued a report calling on lawmakers to end such approaches in campus sexual assault cases (1). The Expert Panel was convened in observance of Wrongful Conviction Day on October 4 and addressed the growing problem of “victim-centered” investigations at colleges and in the criminal justice system.
“Victim-centered” methods abandon traditional notions of impartiality and objectivity, and instead call on investigators to presume that “all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings,” as one report enjoins (2). Such recommendations represent a negation of the long-held tenet of the presumption of innocence, and are likely to lead to wrongful determinations of guilt.
One of the expert panelists was Michael Conzachi, a former homicide detective and police academy instructor. Conzachi sharply criticized the University of Texas-Austin document Blueprint for Campus Police, saying its recommendations to remove inconsistent statements and exculpatory information from investigational reports represent a potential violation of laws that bar evidence concealment and tampering.
E. Everett Bartlett, president of the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, reported that many lawsuits by accused students against universities now include allegations of investigational impropriety. He identified nine categories of investigational biases claimed in campus lawsuits such as Overt bias/Predetermination of guilt and Inadequate investigator qualifications.
Joseph Roberts, a former student at Savannah State University who was falsely accused of sexual harassment, revealed the absence of basic due process protections such as proper notice and a hearing. Roberts advised other students facing such claims to “keep your head and stay in control of your emotions.”
SAVE has developed a model bill titled the Campus Equality, Fairness, and Transparency Act (CEFTA). The bill mandates the use of “justice-centered” investigations that would require campus investigators to “discharge their duties with objectivity and impartiality” (3).
SAVE is working for effective and fair solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org