A Las Vegas family is pushing for change to an antiquated law which is protecting a child molester.
Attorney Stephen Stubbs spoke to reporters recently on behalf of the family to protect their identity and keep their child from learning about the crime.
“To witness the reaction of the parent’s was painful,” said Stubbs. “The pain they feel is terrible.”
A man, whose identity is being kept confidential, applied for a job with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. During the polygraph segment of the hiring processes, the man admitted to sexually assaulting the child as an infant. In subsequent interviews, the man admitted to detectives that he had ‘sexually gratified himself.’
While the application process is covered under confidentiality rules, the LVMPD investigates any crime uncovered during a person’s application.
Law enforcement declined to reveal any investigative results. The information gathered will be forwarded to the district attorney. The DA will make the decision about filing charges.
Stubbs said prosecutors couldn’t charge the suspect because of a 200-year-old law familiar as ‘corpus delicti.’
“A person cannot be convicted solely on the confessions,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a noted Las Vegas Criminal defense lawyer. “The perpetrator was careful and selected a victim who could not testify or remember the incident.”
Other than the man’s confession there is no other evidence.
The family is feeling ”robbed of justice,” said Stubbs. “That’s the reason they are calling on Nevada’s legislature to close the legal loophole.
Twelve other states have modified the corpus delicti rules. New York was the first.
Nevada Legislation AB49 included a clause which would have addressed the loophole, but the bill was too big and the section was removed.
“In committee, they had to reduce the bill and decide which were most important,” said Stubbs.
Corpus Delicti is Latin for “body of the crime” and refers to the legal principle that a crime must be proven to have occurred before a person can be convicted for that crime.
For instance: an individual can’t be tried for larceny unless it is proven that property has been stolen. In the same manner, for a person to be tried for arson, it must be proved that a criminal act resulted in the burning of property.
In America’s legal system, a defendant’s out-of-court confession, alone, is not enough to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Some jurisdictions go further and claim without first showing independent corroboration that a crime occurred, the prosecution does not have license introduce evidence of the defendant’s statement.
Generally, corpus delicti requires — at a minimum:
The occurrence of the injury and some criminal act as the cause of the injury.
An individual has died as a result of action, or inaction, by another, and
Property is missing because it was stolen.
In essence, corpus delicti of crimes refer to evidence a violation of the law has occurred — no literal ‘body’ is needed.
To be convicted of a crime, there must be evidence the crime occurred in the first place. The legal loophole when it comes to the Las Vegas case may resolve that problem. If it does, Nevada will join twelve other states in correcting a terrible oversight in the law.