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Cross Examination, Prior Bad Acts & Child Molestation

Posted by Rick · April 14th, 2004 · 11 Comments

A very good friend, who happens also to be a very good law student, sent me a link to a Fresno Bee story about a child molester who was freed from a life sentence by an appeals court on a “technicality.” The alleged victim was not available at trial because he had committed suicide.

If you ask me, that’s actually a tough case.

Most people, if they think about it, will agree that there are cases that are cut-and-dry; there are cases that appear to be cut-and-dry; and there are borderline cases.

This one at least appears to be cut-and-dry. It may even be cut-and-dry, although I don’t think the story gives quite enough facts for that. Appearances can be deceiving.

The way the Fresno Bee story puts it, they appear to imply that it is irrelevant that the accuser could not be cross-examined at trial by Edward Harvey Stokes’ attorney. His prior bad acts establish his guilt. They give no other reason for saying he is guilty. Further, the story is written as if the suicide were caused by him, but there is no evidence or foundation for saying so. The kid was troubled. He was a runaway. It’s entirely possible he killed himself for other reasons not entirely related (perhaps even unrelated) to the alleged sexual abuse by the target of this story.

As you might imagine, there are actually good policy reasons, and not just whimsical-fantastical reasons, for why prior acts are inadmissible in courts except under constrained circumstances — and usually, though not exclusively, related to impeachment. The fact that someone has committed crimes before does not ipso facto mean that he (or she) has committed the crime for which he (or she) is currently on trial. In some situations — and that may be the case here — such crimes may be admissible to establish a pattern, if such a pattern is establishable. The rules for that are also time-bound; when someone has committed a similar crime, but not for the last 40 years, there is less justification for admitting that prior act into evidence. This makes sense: having committed a crime once in 40 years is hardly a “pattern.”

So this story, without any supporting evidence, makes it clear this guy is guilty.

If he was actually guilty, there should have been more evidence on which to obtain a conviction. If there is, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be tried again. “Double jeopardy” does not apply to a situation where a conviction is overturned because of “clear error.” If the prosecutor has other reasons to believe in Stokes’ guilt than just the fact that he was accused, he should have re-tried him. Based on what little bit the story reports, his prior acts would probably be admissible; they just aren’t dispositive.

And, after all, it’s possible to get a conviction for murder and murder victims are never available for cross examination. Why should this case be any different? If all that was available was the testimony of the victim, this is a real problem. Do we really want to start throwing people in jail for life just because someone says “He molested me.” Can you say, “McMartin”?

That’s one of the reasons we have procedures like “cross examination.” Unchallenged assertions can often make the guilt of the accused “crystal clear.” Then someone starts asking questions and, suddenly, the situation is not so clear anymore. (For the most simplistic appreciation of this, those of you with siblings need merely think back to your childhood.)

If all that was available to the prosecutor was that the accused had been accused, then this would seem to be a pretty weak case — which brings us back to the prior acts. Prior acts alone should not be enough to convict someone to a life term. That someone has committed a crime before is not proof that he (or she, but in this case the accused is male) has committed this crime. The fact that we might think it’s okay because he committed these crimes before is just exactly why they should not be enough.

After all, he was already convicted and already served time for those crimes. And if we think he somehow didn’t get a long enough sentence for those prior crimes, then we should have addressed that issue independently in the legislature — which apparently was done, but only after (or in a different jurisdiction from where) he was convicted. We cannot throw a person in jail for life for a crime that he might not have committed just because we made a mistake in allowing for shorter sentences on prior crimes that he had committed. Article I, Section 9, clause 3 of the United States Constitution, it seems to me, would forbid this, even if common sense doesn’t.

A system of law — the rule of law — requires a stable and strong infrastructure of essentially unwaivering principles. We cannot make up new rules with each case on the grounds that “we know” an accused is guilty. In law, we would say “that’s conclusory.” Cases must be built; evidence presented; guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt. To accept anything less is antithetical to justice in a free society. The purpose of our system and the rules by which it’s structured aim to get us as close to a just society as we can get. Is it going to be perfect? No. But, as the English jurist William Blackstone said, “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one suffer.” You may disagree with this. I’ve no doubt that some of you do. If you were the “one,” I suspect you might feel differently. And there really are innocent people in jail, even in the face of “technicalities” like the constitutional right to confront one’s accuser.

What I’ve said above should in no way be taken to indicate that I think we should go easy on child-molesters, not even this child molester. But just as I wouldn’t suggest torching my house to get rid of these little pincher bugs I hate, so, too, I don’t think that an attack on the constitutional right to cross examination is the best tool for going after child molesters.

There is always the danger that respecting constitutional rights will lead to someone occasionally going free. It’s more likely that respecting constitutional rights will allow people to continue to live free when they have been innocently accused. If police and prosecutors follow proper procedures, it makes their job a little bit harder, but it will seldom make it impossible. Someone who has committed a crime is rarely so smart that the only evidence against them is defeated by a constitutional issue.

The problem is that too often — as in this Fresno Bee story — “a conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.”

Special thanks to Lisa Ellis for bringing the Fresno Bee article to my attention.

Categories: Constitutional Issues


11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Apr 14, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    I don’t think it’s such a tough one…

    Granted, everything you say above is logical and makes sense, and after having read the case, even I have doubts about whether the encounter was consensual or not.. BUT…

    There is no dispute over the fact that Stokes engaged in sexual acts with the teenager.

    His attorney was present, and capable of engaging in cross-examination of the kid when he gave, essentially, a deposition prior to trial. It was that testimony which was admitted at trial.

    The problem was that the victim’s statement to the police in a supplemental report had inconsistencies with his recorded statement (at which time he was cross-examined). Defense counsel did not receive that supplemental report until after the oral examination of the victim. In reading the case, it appears that those were primarily issues of whether the kid had a chance to escape and didn’t. The prosecution argued that the court did consider those inconsistencies and that is why defendant was acquitted on the charge of kidnapping and on an additional forcible oral copulation charge. Defense argued that having the report would have altered the manner in which they cross-examined the victim. The 4th Appellate District held that the inconsistencies went to the issue of credibility of the victim.

    There is no way that the prosecutor can re-try this case… given the appellate court’s ruling, the victim’s statements will not be able to come in at all.

    No, I would not wanted to be convicted on nothing more than a statement that “she did it.” BUT.. at the same time… this guy has ADMITTED to raping/molesting over 200 victims and he used the same MO (drugs/alcohol) in prior crimes for which he was convicted… and this “encounter” happened less than 3 days after he was released from the term he was serving for some of the prior assaults… and now he is back out on the streets.

    No, I would not want to be convicted on nothing more than someone’s statement when I had not had a chance to cross-examine him… but this guy’s attorney WAS there and DID have a chance to cross-examine the witness. It may not have been as thorough of a cross-examination as he would have liked, but a good defense attorney should have vigorously pursued issues of consent, ANYWAY, in a case like this. So I am not convinced that the outcome would have differed had the supplemental report been provided to defense earlier, when they SHOULD have produced it…

    That having been said, the prosecutors screwed up.

    I believe in our in Constitutional tenets. I am, however, disappointed that by upholding the “protections” of the Constitution we are simultaneously creating a potentially perilous situation for perhaps hundreds of others…

    Did I mention this is all because the prosecution screwed up? The end result is that the prosecution’s mistake in failing to turn over evidence has resulted in a serious miscarriage of justice.

    This guy is now out there somewhere on the streets…law enforcement presumes he has already left the state… his own sister called him a “monster” ….

    No, I would not wanted to be convicted on nothing more than a statement that “she did it”… but I am STILL disheartened at the fact that a technicality has released this individual back onto the streets, into a world full of unsuspecting young boys… when he has essentially ADMITTED that he will do it again.

  • 2 Rick // Apr 14, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    What you say is *exactly* why this is a tough case. And what you say isn’t inconsistent with what I said.

    In your comment here, you note that there’s no doubt Stokes had sex with the teen, that the question (if any) is whether it was consensual, that there were inconsistencies in the teen’s statement to police, that Stokes had an extensive history of convictions or admissions to acts similar to those in this case and that the prosecution cannot retry the case because the victim’s statements will not come in at all.

    Let’s take these one at a time.

    1) There is no doubt that Stokes had sex with the teen.

    Fine. Let’s accept that as true. The question then becomes, “Was the sex consensual?” If it was consensual, then, at best, we have statutory rape (unless the teen is under 14 in CA). I don’t believe that carries a life sentence.

    2) The teen’s statements were inconsistent.

    Since the question is whether the sex was consensual or not, the teen’s statements are of critical importance. This is EXACTLY the reason for the Confrontation Clause.

    “[T]he principal PURPOSE of cross-examination: to challenge whether the declarant was sincerely telling what he believed to be the truth, whether the declarant accurately perceived and remembered the matter he related, and whether the declarant’s intended meaning is adequately conveyed by the language he employed.” OHIO V. ROBERTS (1980) 448 U.S. 56, at p. 71.

    If the teen’s statements are inconsistent, there is the possibility that they are not true. If there is a possibility that they are not true, then the defense should have a right to cross examine them in order to determine whether or not they are false. There’s a real issue of whether this evidence is “reliable” — I’m using that term in the legal sense — as is required for admissibility.

    3) Stokes had an extensive history of admissions to or convictions for acts similar to that of which he is accused.

    Now you’re into reasons why (at least in CA — and I think Federal law — if not all states) the evidence of prior acts should be allowed. These acts can be used to establish a pattern, particularly when the so-called modus operandi is the same (or similar enough).

    “As a general guide, those convictions which are for the same crime should be admitted sparingly.” GORDON V. UNITED STATES (1967) 383 F.2d 936, at p. 939; cert. denied 390 U.S. 1029. But this relates to introduction of prior convictions for the purpose of impeachment.

    Regarding an attempt to establish a pattern of behavior (sometimes, unless I’m mixing up ideas — which is possible since I haven’t had “Evidence” yet, referred to as “propensity evidence”) which might be used as evidence regarding a new crime for which one is on trial, Federal Rules 413-415 allow this. Federal Rule 404(b) has also been used to establish “intent” or “absence of mistake.” See Bialczak and Wong, FOURTH ANNUAL REVIEW OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY LAW: Violence Law Chapter: Evidentiary Matters in Sexual Offense Cases (2002) 4 Geo. J. Gender & L. 525 regarding Fed. Rules 413-415 generally, and fn. 45 as regards 404(b). The California Penal Code § 1108 allows the fact of a commission of a prior sexual offense to be introduced as evidence in a trial for sexual assault if it is not inadmissible under § 352 (undue prejudice, confusing, misleading).

    The conviction of Stokes was not overturned on grounds relating to this. His prior bad acts showing that he has a history or propensity for crimes such as those with which he was on trial might be — I could even argue that it should be — admissible in a new trial.

    4) The prosecution cannot retry the case because the victim’s statements cannot come in at all.

    Well, since I’m only a second-year law student, it’s entirely possible you know something I don’t. (It’s entirely possible anyway, actually.) I fail to see why the inadmissibility of the victim’s statements PREVENTS a retrial. Is it because since the statements are inadmissible, the fact that he accused Stokes is inadmissible? It seems to me that officers could testify to the FACT that a crime was reported to them. Isn’t it the case that once such a charge has been made, the case is, in a sense, “out of the victim’s hands”? Even in a situation where a victim says, “He did it. Please don’t charge him!” the state can move forward on its own, nu? If there is OTHER evidence than the statement that would convince the prosecutor to prosecute, then I don’t understand how there’s a BAR to prosecution.

    And that takes care of the only other reason I know of why a retrial would be barred (but, again, I’m conceding that I don’t know everything — and I haven’t time to research this). If there IS other evidence, the prosecutor would not be barred on the grounds that he did not have a good faith belief in the guilt of the accused.

    Lastly, in ANY case, all this stuff is irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is a constitutional right to confront a witness, particularly when there are inconsistencies in any statements by that witness which are admitted into evidence. There are certain exceptions, which I won’t take the time to go into here (e.g., dying statements) because so far as I can tell they do not apply.

    The right to confrontation of one’s accusers dates back to Roman times. CRAWFORD V. WASHINGTON (2004) 158 L.Ed.2d 177, at p. 187. However, the founders of our country took English common law as the source for this concept. Ibid. In 1696, the Court of King’s Bench held evidence inadmissible, even though the witness was dead and thus no longer available, because cross-examination was impossible. Id., at p. 189. (As you can begin to see from this, Crawford provides a rather extensive history of the concept. It’s a fascinating read.) The Supreme Court in Crawford reiterated that the Confrontation Clause also applies to out-of-court testimony. Id., at p. 192. They also affirmed that it applies to anyone who provides “[a] solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some factdeclaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact.” Ibid. Testimonial statements are inadmissible at trial unless BOTH the witness is unable to testify AND the defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine. Id., at p. 194; see also, Roberts, supra, at p. 73.

    So far as I know, the only way out of this is for testimony which bears some “indicia of reliability.” At the moment (without digging further), I think that according to Roberts, this indicia is actually partly reliant upon the right to cross-examination; in other words, I don’t think there is a way out. Even if there are other methods of establishing “indicia of reliability,” I think it would be awfully hard to do this with what are apparently “inconsistent” statements made to the police by a witness who is then unavailable to testify.

    So what am I missing?

  • 3 Rick // Apr 14, 2004 at 3:50 pm


    Having now read the People v. Stokes (G029976, 2003 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 10779, November 17, 2003, Filed), which was emailed to me, several interesting things emerge.

    The Fresno Bee story made it sound as if the teen in this story was young enough for there to be a child molestation charge and that the defendant was convicted on those grounds. In this case, he was charged with sexual battery and forcible oral copulation, among other things.

    Furthermore, the Court noted, “As long as [defendant] was the actor and [the victim] the receiver, that was all right.” Stokes, supra., at p. 18. The problem turned out to be that the victim claims not to have liked it when the situation was the other way around.

    In any case, the victim — or should we say “alleged victim”? — apparently gave ONE statement to police and a DIFFERENT statement in court. Later, he committed suicide. (No reason given in the documents I saw.)

    And the prosecution did not turn the 83-page police statement over to the defense (as required by law) until nearly a year later. The Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, noted that the Supreme Court had held “that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” Stokes, supra, at p. 16.


    1) The Fresno Bee story is misleading in that while the guy may have once been a child molester, may once have been convicted for that, and may have already once been imprisoned for that, he was not in prison for child molestation at this time and child molestation does not figure into the current case at all; he was in prison on a POSSIBLY trumped-up charge of sexual assault and oral copulation. The victim on whose behalf those charges was filed was not a child.

    2) There is a real question as to whether the alleged victim in the case for which Stokes was serving a life term of imprisonment was even a victim. There is some indication that he was a willing participant. He did not try to leave Stokes’ presence, even driving him from Barstow to Anaheim, while Stokes slept, and even being out of the car by himself in public places while Stokes slept in the car. He apparently did not mind being on the RECEIVING end of the oral acts; he MAY have been against being the giver.

    3) The prosecution apparently supressed evidence in the case which would have tended to contradict the accusations of the alleged victim. It was on these grounds that the defense claimed not to have had an adequate opportunity to cross-examine. The Fourth Appellate District apparently disagreed.

    Once again, the “news” media makes us all yelp with the horrendous news which, upon closer examination, has received a massive spin apparently just for the purpose of making us yelp (and contributing to the “news” media’s economic success).

    Here, their story has come unspun.

    P.S. Lisa has emailed me information that corrects a few comments I’ve made here, including that she believes there was a cross-examination, just an inadequate one, and that thus the appeal should have failed. I’ve suggested that she post her comments here, because she DOES correct some misunderstandings of mine — even if she gets it wrong overall. 😉 (I’M TEASING, LISA!)

  • 4 eagle23 // Apr 15, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Please read http://www.seattle-pi.com of April 15, 2004, which relates Stokes prior convictions. According to this story, Stokes appears to have a pattern of preying on underage boys. This is based not only on his own written communication that he has molested 212 boys, but on a series of prior convictions in which he used the same modus operandi. Maybe the “three strikes you’re out” should apply to pedophiles, as pedophilia is known to be virtually untreatable. I live in the area where Stokes now roams free. I am an aunt, parent, grandmother, and teacher. The area where Stokes just obtained a Costco card is an area of South Seattle where troubled young people–Stokes’ preferred prey–do roam and even prostitute themselves. The tone of some of the statements about the “troubled” young man who may or may not have enjoyed “receiving” Stokes’ attention is that the kid deserved what he got. Stokes’ victims are “low value” kids (and he’s white) so Stokes has paid his price. No, it’s his next victims who will pay the price, and then our court system and taxpayers here in Washington State. The “south end,” as it’s called, where Stokes has returned, is a favorite haven (or spawning ground?) for serial rapists as well as for serial killers.

  • 5 Rick // Apr 15, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    I’m not a parent, nor do I have much else to do with children. (I think I once wrote a blog entry that contains a quote a friend of mine gave me (she does have children) about having heard they were good with mustard or something.)

    All joking aside, I feel for parents today. The world, it seems to me, has become a pretty ugly place for trying to raise kids. If I were a parent, I’m sure I’d occasionally feel like my kids were those little ducks at the Fairgrounds swimming back and forth drying to dodge BB guns.

    And there’s no doubt that Stokes is a bad guy. From what I read, I’d go so far as to say he is evil.

    But that’s not the point. Unfortunately, when we throw people in jail, we have to do it on the basis of a crime that has been committed. You can’t just scoop up evil people, make up stories about them, and stick them in jail forever. Perhaps it would be nice if we could. In some countries without law, that happens.

    In a country that prides itself on being civilized and lawful, we unfortunately have to endure some evil people — unless we can throw them in jail after actually proving they’ve committed a crime.

    The system we’ve built to do that — prove that people have committed the crimes for which we put them in jail — requires the utmost integrity. Putting people in jail forever is serious business. Without the proper safeguards, people can be held in Guantan — oops, excuse me, that already happens. Anyway, if we’re going to imprison people, we want to make sure they’ve committed the crimes for which they’re being imprisoned.

    Now, we might not like this — I’m sure you don’t, and I don’t blame you — but Stokes was already convicted and already imprisoned and already released because he’d “done the time” that was required by the crimes he was proven to have committed. The fact that some people might not think that was long enough means they need to consider lobbying their representatives to pass laws making crimes like his have longer sentences.

    But what you cannot do is say, “Well, he finished serving his time. Now he’s free. I have an idea! Let’s arrest him for a crime and then, if the evidence shows he didn’t commit it, let’s hide the evidence!”

    Firstly, these rules really do protect innocent people more than they protect evil people. Evil people — and I said this before in this discussion — usually can be convicted on evidence even without a testifying witness. As I noted then, we don’t have to revive a dead person to get them to testify; there’s usually other evidence.

    In the Stokes case, it looks like the prosecutor may have (MAY have — I don’t really know) screwed up. And he relied entirely on the testimony of a troubled young man to make his case. If you believe the case (which I read), that young man was troubled even before Stokes met him. No doubt, this is one reason Stokes liked him — he probably thought it would be easy to seduce him BECAUSE he was troubled.

    The problem is that troubled young men sometimes lie. This young man apparently did, at least PART of the time. (Statements he made to police did not match statements to which he testified.)

    But the prosecutor apparently did not provide the evidence of this to the defense team, as they are required to do. They knew it would make it easier for Stokes to go free; he might be acquitted.

    The problem is that if he was acquitted, he would have been acquitted because a jury thought he was not guilty. (Not the same as innocent, by the way.)

    Lisa has posted some excellent material to argue that perhaps what I’m saying isn’t quite right. She believes there was an opportunity for cross-examination. I’m not sure I agree, BUT I definitely also agree that the prosecutor “cheated” by failing to turn over evidence as required by law. And our court system says that one of the best ways to prevent prosecutors from doing things that are against the law like this is to punish them when they do it.

    So, in the end, if you want to be upset at anyone because Stokes “got away,” I’d look to these people:

    1) The lawmakers who made the laws under which he was convicted for the OTHER crimes, because (in your opinion) they made the sentences too short.

    2) The prosecutor who failed to turn over evidence as required by law, which resulted in the testimony of the young man who complained to him being thrown out.

    When someone has gone to jail and served the time for the crime they were convicted for committing and then is released, you can’t then go out and arrest them, convict them on unreliable testimony and throw away the key just because you don’t like them or even because they’re evil. They actually have to commit a new crime. Sad as that may be, that’s just.

    The solution isn’t to jail people for crimes they might not have committed. If you want them in prison longer, the solution is to make longer sentences.

  • 6 Ro // Apr 16, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    This case is very difficult on several fronts. The biggest problem is that the prosecution in this case failed to turn over potentially exculpatory material. This was not an innocent mistake! The prosecution would have known how destructive to their case these conflicting statements were. They most likely knowingly withheld these documents for over one year! I have not read the case history or the appelate decision so theses issues might have been covered. I personally find it a more egregious crime that the prosecution failed to seek the truth and only wanted to put this man away because he was a bad guy. That does not work in this society. the defendant here obviously has sexual problems. But the alleged victim does not appear to be an angel either. The prosecution should be defenders of the constitution not abusers. It is the duty of the prosecution to seek the truth and not just convictions. This basic maxim was obviously lost on these prosecutors as well as most other prosecutors.

    I spent the last two years defending a case were a man was charged with capital murder. There was significant evidence that he was not the shooter. several eyewitnesses placed him in los angeles at the time of the crime. These were independant and unbiased witnesses. The police and District Attorney refused to investigate the crime even after we gave them names of the people we uncovered in our investigation who we thought were responsible for the crime. through a ton of work we located who we believed was the real shooter in jail in LA. We got a court order fo a live lineup. The district attorney only transported one of their witnesses to the line-up. That witness Id the suspect out of a six man live line-up and said he is the one. We thought we had it made but the DA conducted a very convuluted interview with the witness and got her to say that maybe it just looks like the guy who did the shooting. The other witness was a seven year old boy. We wanted him to see the line up as well. We petitioned the court. The petition was denied. The DA vehemently fought conducting another line-up. We appealed the issue to the 5th district and were denied. We next appealed to the state supreme court. They were more receptive and asked for briefs on the matter. Ultimately we lost there as well. During the whole process the prosecution and Police seemed to forget that it is their duty to find the truth.
    To make a long story short we finally were able to get the person we thought was the shooter in local custody. We had him transferred from prison as a material witness for trial. So after two years and on the eve of trial in a death penalty case we on or own were able to get the real shooter to court. Trial was supposed to start this week. However the witness was now sure that the person we found was the real killer. The prosecution still wanted to charge our client with murder as being another person at the crime. However with the crazy ID problem and strong alibi we finally convivinced them of our clients innocence. They accepted a plea of accessory after the fact.(a negotiated deal) and next monday after two years of being wrongfully accused our client will walk out of Jail a free man! What this shows that even with evidence of overwhelming innocence and strong evidence of guilt by other parties the Prosecution and Police steadfastly refused to investigate. what a sorry state of affairs. We have spent probably at least $100,000 of Taxpayer $ investigating and defending this person. We as citizens deserve better

  • 7 Lisa // Apr 19, 2004 at 9:45 am

    Less than a month after he is released, he is already in trouble with the law again… http://www.fresnobee.com/state_wire/story/8454465p-9289427c.html

  • 8 Rick // Apr 19, 2004 at 10:05 am

    This is sad and entirely expected news.

    It doesn’t change the simple fact, though, that we cannot through people in jail for life on what look like potentially (if not probably) trumped up charges.

    Remember, the law itself, when applied in the future, will be applied irrespective of whether the person is really a bad guy, like Stokes, or actually an innocently accused person.

    Stokes’ — and I think I said before that even I would consider him “evil” — guilt on other charges notwithstanding, the prosecutor sat on exculpatory evidence. Stokes may not have forced himself on the man who was the alleged victim in the case this post revolves around.

    We cannot throw people in jail for crimes they may not have committed just to prevent them from committing other crimes. As I said the other day, with Stokes’ prior convictions, if we didn’t want him out, we should have passed laws that would have kept him in.

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things.

  • 9 Susan Stokes // May 2, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    A friend forwarded this site to me and I read the contents with great interest. In the weeks since my brothers release there have been many debates surrounding the case, the reported deception by the prosecution and the value of upholding the constitution. Fingers point to inadequate prosecution and deliberate deceit in order to lock up the vile person I grew up with. My motive has also been questioned. As his sister, I know him better than anyone does and I know his criminal history with more intimacy than anyone who rallies to support him and the decision made by the court.

    When I learned of his impending release on the very day he was scheduled to go to court I was shocked. I immediately began to make calls. For my safety, the safety of my son and the safety of so many others, I did not want him to slip into the general population without a trace. He is too dangerous. With great frustration, I learned the laws of each state vary when it comes to registering sexual predators. Initially, California told me he did not have to register with them and Oregon said they had remanded custody to California so he did not have to register there. The range I heard was 30 to 90 days. In that time, he could be in your neighborhood. Grooming your family and closing in on your teenage son. By the time you realize what is going on it is too late. Another victim. Another arrest. Another trial. I have observed this cycle for over 30 years. People like him, if released, should be closely monitored. The research, diagnosis and predatory pattern says they will re-offend. To allow him to move freely within the community is a violation of our basic right to be protected under the law from people like him. People with no regard to the life, liberty and happiness of anyone but themselves

    He was diagnosed as a pedophile, sociopath and a sexual predator in his teens. His first crime as an adult resulted in being sentenced to a treatment program in 1974. While in treatment at the Western State Hospital Sexual Psychopath Program he raped another patient and was expelled from the program to complete his sentence in prison. Since that time he has been in prison most of his life. Whenever paroled he re-offends and gets additional time in prison. He has been in prison in Washington, Oregon and California and was arrested in Colorado. All for the same thing. He has been in 3 treatment programs with no success, had counselors, religious conversions, been on Depo-Provera, made promises to God, my parents, the parole board and anybody else who would listen in order to get some relief at sentencing or during incarceration. He continues to re-offend. The only reason he is not locked up for life in Washington is due to a law that came to late for him to be included. He has also always had the means to pay for an attorney and until 1995, he had my dad to support him and enable him. Had he had lesser means, I feel his sentences would have been longer.

    Evaluation excerpts from King County Superior Court case # 68708, 1974, 1976
    ?He further feels that his victims learned in a growth process that wasn?t all so bad for them? (1976)

    ?I feel that Mr. Edward H. Stokes, (who will be 20?) is basically a paranoid character disorder whose insights are all rationalized, who is quite intelligent, has ideas of grandeur and exaltation in his rationalization of his behavior, is an angry, perhaps even dangerous person, and his homosexual behavior is certainly related to acting out and is closer to assault in its psychological motivation than sexual behavior, primarily because of its strong factors in revenge, his nonconcern for the victim, and his paranoid rationalizations that his victims learn in a growth process from the experience.? (1976)

    ?Certainly, this man is quite dangerous to be out of a confining institution. I doubt with his kind of rationalized insight and manipulative behavior, that he will ever be a good subject for psychotherapy. He needs to be confined.? (1976)

    In defense of the prosecution, trial judge and the investigation from 1996-2001: After a thorough review of the evidence in question it is my understanding that the inconsistency was minor and would not affect the outcome of the case. The judge made a careful ruling after hearing from both sides. At that time, both sides were in agreement regarding the ruling made by the judge. It was never ?hidden? as is claimed by so many. This case was handled with the highest level of integrity in order to insure successful prosecution. The appellate court did not take the time to thoroughly review all evidence. A bad decision was made and now there is no going back. Rest assured, had I know this was in the works I would have acted immediately to make sure he was not released before a more thorough review of the situation and the years of records kept by investigators in this case.

    In the 5 years it took to actually get him to the point of sentencing in the California case, he manipulated the legal system with a barrage of strategies designed to keep him out of court. The many attorneys he hired, fired, and had appointed are on record. As are his attempts to represent himself. During one trial where I was present, several members of the jury became ill after listening to the evidence and were not able to continue. A mistrial was declared. Each time, his new defense had a chance to see ALL the evidence.

    To say the charges are ?trumped up? shows inadequate knowledge of the case and insults the integrity of the people involved in the investigation at that time. As you may know, he has recently been charged with similar crimes committed in Portland, Oregon following his release from prison in Oregon. In 1996, California had a chance to give him a life sentence. That is why he was tried in California.

    ?That teen? has a name. A mom. A sister. A family. A wife and a child. Out of respect for his family, I will not disclose the conversation with his mom recently. But shame on any of you who say he may have had chances to leave, he was willing, or he liked it and consented. Historically, people have been known to take extreme measures to save their own life. None of us was in his shoes and nobody has a right to presume to know what was in his head during this time. It is tantamount to saying a woman wants to be raped because she is dressed in provocative clothing.

    The saddest thing of all is that the young man who killed himself has no right to refute anything my brother says now. His voice silenced by the horror of the unending impact on a life that was troubled. It seemed he had tried to move away from the past and in looking at the future, he had found hope in his wife and child. Despite his best efforts to put this behind him and move on, he could not. To speculate the he may have done it for any other reason is to dishonor his family. The fact he did it despite the positive things in his life should be enough to answer any of those questions. Unless you are survivor of extreme abuse of this nature the business of trying to understand his motive is ineffective and should be left to those who can honestly say, ?I know how he felt. I am a survivor of that level of abuse, too?

    In closing, I need to say that I am what you would consider a ?liberal?. Until it comes to the rights or so called rights of this type of criminal. I believe that once a person crosses a line that our society unequivocally says is unacceptable (rape, child molestation?) they are making a clear statement that they do not agree to live by the laws we have to protect the innocent. When the line is crossed, I believe they should not be afforded the same protection under the constitution as you and I. These are the people that the hard-core lifers in prison cannot even tolerate. The people who live in protective custody because what they have done is so overwhelmingly vile that the worst of the worst in general population pales in comparison to the acts committed by these monsters. What right does he have to say that he deserves equal protection under the law? He made a choice to step outside of the law in such a heinous way that to ask for relief under the Constitution should be prohibited. Laws regarding this category of criminal need to be uniform nationally in order to send a clear message to all who choose to cross that line that their behavior will not be tolerated and that such behavior is punishable by life in prison with no chance for parole. That is the only sure way to keep him and others like him from preying on the children of our country. He is not the only predator in this category. I have heard stories from people across the U.S.

    I pray for a successful prosecution in Oregon. Thirty years off the streets is thirty years where past victims may be able to find some closure and healing. Thirty years where the streets will be safer from at least one person like him.

    Susan Stokes

  • 10 Bob // May 2, 2004 at 8:05 pm

    Ms. Stokes,

    I am deeply and sincerely mourning your situation. It must be impossibly difficult to have the love of your brother in your heart and the concern for his victims in your mind.

    I salute the bravery of your previous post.

    Please accept my feable hope that your family can find true peace in knowing that you did the right thing despite the love you have for your brother.

    My hope is that your brother is put somewhere he cannot harm others soon and you find peace in that decision.

    No one should have to make such a difficult decision. I applaud your strength and integrity , and more importantly, God sees your integrity during an impossible time.

    Just know that there are some who see the pain of your decision and appreciate your strength.

    Words fail me now, but thank you for your strength.


  • 11 Kenneth Davis // Mar 28, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    I feel that this law in California should be challenged. My problem with this law is “accusations are sufficent”. Not convictions. I could charge someone of abusing me–even up to 20 or 30 years ago. Like a ‘Priest’ and I’m not even Catholic. And immediately, if someone else states that the person did similar things to them–we have ‘past bad acts’. The individual may not have done a thing–but in Mr. (above all law) prosecutor-now in Legislatures–it is enough. This is wrong in so many ways. At the start of the Jackson’s Case the Judge made a statement “I’m not brought or paid for in this case”. Interpretation: the terrible rulings I’m doing in this case is the results of favors and bias and not being done for additional Cash! To allow non-convictions accusations to come into an already losing case–is so wrong on so many levels! I personally will subscribe to a change to this law. I will get the required signatures to submit this “Wrong” law to the voters of our great State. As it should be!

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