Can Scientific Evidence of Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) Overturn Convictions Retroactively
Appellate Docket No.: A-4-19
Decided August 5, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Sex Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, the Court reviewed whether scientific evidence of Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) presented for the conviction of those accused of sex crimes against children which was later found to be insufficient scientific evidence, could overturn convictions retroactively.
In State v. G.E.P, four defendants were convicted of sex crimes against children, including first degree aggravated sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, and second degree endangering the welfare of a child. In each of the convictions, the State presented evidence of CSAAS.
Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) includes five “preconditions” that purportedly explain behaviors exhibited by sexually abused children: secrecy; helplessness; entrapment and accommodation; delayed, conflicted, and unconvincing disclosure; and retraction. In a 2018 decision State v. J.L.G., 234 N.J. 265, 272 (2018), the Supreme Court of New Jersey rejected CSAAS as lacking sufficiently reliable basis in science.
The defendants each appealed their convictions after J.L.G. was decided. The Appellate Division consolidated the four convictions and decided that each case was appropriate for retroactive application. The Supreme Court reviewed the case, and decided that all but one of the cases was appropriate for retroactive application to overturn the convictions. Further, the Court allowed retroactive application to be applied to other cases as well, explaining that it would apply to about 40 cases and would not result in an unreasonable burden on the administration of justice.
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