By: C. Tierney
Santiago Vasquez of Paragould was convicted of 5 counts of Rape by a Jury in Greene County last June and subsequently sentenced to 5 concurrent 25 year prison sentences. Vasquez appealed the conviction on the basis that the State erred in allowing a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Nurse to give expert testimony.
The child victim came forward at the age of twelve and said that Vasquez had sexually assaulted her during a time he was dating her mother. The child was 8-9 years old when the multiple assaults occurred. During the examination of the victim, the SANE did not find any scarring. The Prosecutor, Keith Chrestman, asked the SANE Nurse if it was typical, based on the 1300 examinations that she had done over her career, to not see evidence of scarring.
OF COURSE, WE KNOW IT IS NORMAL. Most victims of childhood sexual abuse are not able to report during a time when there would be forensic evidence on their bodies and that is the entire point. Child predators choose children as their victims because they know that they are less likely to be able to defend themselves and prove anything happened later.
However, the law does not support the way this testimony was allowed because the SANE Nurse was allowed to essentially speculate as to why there would be no signs of injury. Despite the fact that any reasonable person could come to the same conclusion, the Arkansas Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction and remanded the case back to the Circuit Court where there will be a new trial.
We hope a lesson is learned from this appeal and that no other children are drug through these processes more than once. Our thoughts are with the victim and will continue to be.