Friday, September 28, 2007

The First Thing We Do, We Kill All The Witnesses

State v. Bentley, no, 06-1000, (Iowa September 28, 2007).

This is another sorry chapter in the case of the pathetic, repulsive Bentley brothers and what they did to Jetseta Gage. As you know, James and Roger Bentley sexually abused the child, and Roger Bentley killed her and was convicted of murder.

James Bentley (already serving a 100 year federal sentence for using the girl to manufacture child pornography) is presently in the preliminary stages of a trial for sexually abusing this tiny child, and he succeeded in not only stifling her cries for help, he did it with the cooperation of the judiciary.

It's important to get the timeline right here.

Jetseta was interviewed on videotape by a St. Luke's counselor about sex abuse and the interview was watched by a police officer on November 16, 2004. Jetseta gave damning statements about what James had done to her. Two days later James Bentley was charged with sex abuse. Jetseta was raped and murdered by Roger Bentley in late March 2005, and her body was dumped in an abandoned trailer like a sack of trash.

James Bentley sought and received an order prohibiting the introduction of the videotape of the interview on the basis that he did not have the opportunity to confront the witness against him.
His argument was that the interview was testimonial in nature and thus the opportunity to cross examine arose and was denied to him, because of the untimely demise of the victim.

The key question is, how can the interview of a child sexual assault victim be structured so as to avoid implicating the confrontation clause. Several methods suggest themselves, not the least of which is sending the officers out for a coffee break. Another is to depose the child witness promptly via a video hookup. I have not completely digested this opinion and I shall have more to say about it.

The court here sends a powerful message to child sex abusers: get rid of the evidence and the witnesses, lest you should be subject to prosecution for your crimes.

Well, duh, as they say. Hold up your hand if you think it's coincidence.

Tony Hillerman's fictional detective Joe Leaphorn, has this to say: if you believe in coincidence you aren't looking hard enough.


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