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The Age Factor: Accused Adults vs. Adolescent Accusers

Hawkins County Criminal Court/TN has an interesting criminal sex offense case in the works.

Dr. Chris Calendine, a Rogersville pediatrician has been accused of sexual battery of a 12 yr old boy  and a 14 yr old boy.

From news accounts, it appears Dr. Calendine had a Hawkins County Grand Jury indict him back in August of last year, charging him with aggravated sexual battery by an authority figure.

Let me just say that I’ve never understood the idea of Grand Juries. I can’t quite wrap my head around how someone is accused of something, that accusation is presented to a group of “grand” anonymous jurists by the very people who are hellbent on wanting to prosecute the accused. These grand jurists hold the accused’s fate in their hands, determining whether there’s enough evidence to move forward with the case.  Only problem is, all this happens without the accused ever getting to present any evidence at all!  “Squirrely Justice” if you ask me.

Dr. Calendine denies the accusations and is sort of turning the tables on this case.

On Dec. 13 2017, Heather Good, attorney for Dr. Calendine filed several motions that I think are pretty interesting.

One motion asks that the term “victim” or other “prejudice inducing terminology”  be excluded when referencing the accusers.  The motion seeks to identify the boys as only “the accusers” or “complaining witnesses” and the Dr. as “the accused”. This makes so much sense! Don’t label the accusers “victims” when the case hasn’t even been tried yet, for all we know it could turn out that the Dr. is the victim here.

Another motion seeks to have the witnesses “protected juvenile records” disclosed. Yes, let’s disclose everything, that’s the only way to get to the truth isn’t it?

There’s a motion for a “jury questionnaire”, and a motion to dismiss or in the alternative, for a bill of particulars dealing with the specifics of the sexual contact being alleged. It does seem that one should have the specifics of what they are being charge with, doesn’t it?

There’s also a motion to prohibit access to the child by the state and it’s agents and to compel the state to disclose circumstances of it’s past meetings with the child (as well as to notify the defendent of any future meetings.) According to the news story, it appears that the 12 yr old was interviewed by the forensic team and made a number of speculative, vague and unreliable hearsay statements about uncharged insinuations of alleged improper acts that where not even related to the charged offenses. Seems sort of unfair for one side to be interviewing and gathering info while the otherside doesn’t have that opportunity.

So, why all the commotion over the motions?

Could it be because John Q. Public has been indoctrinated over the years to “always believe the child”? So, when an adult is accused of a sexual offense by 2 young boys, the public is already assuming the worst of the adult, even before they’ve had their day in court.

I don’t know if Dr. Calendine is innocent or guilty.  I don’t know if the juveniles are telling the truth or lying.  That’s for the courts to decide.

What I do know is that we as a society seem to frequently jump the gun in believing adolescents who accuse adults of sexual offenses.  I guess after a few past news worthy incidents of parents who didn’t believe their children’s sexual abuse stories, now we are led to believe that we should “always” believe the child rather than the adult, no matter what.

So where does that leave accused adults?

Shouldn’t we have all the facts before we accuse anybody of anything?

If adolescents have sealed juvenile records, shouldn’t the accused and his defense team have the right to know what their past history reveals?  Do they have a history of lying?  Have they made false allegations in the past? Most juveniles don’t have “protected juvenile records”, so if these boys do, seems like the defense should be able to review them.

According to scientists, the “rational part of a teen brain” doesn’t develop until about 25 yrs of age.  Until that time, teens rely on the emotional areas of the brain when making decisions and interpretations.  They are easily swayed by their peers, they want approval and seek sensation.

At some point in our lives, everyone of us has probably lied or told a fib so we wouldn’t get in trouble, because a friend talked us into it, because everybody else did it. Normal, well behaved, well raised kids, teens, occassionally make up stories, they exaggerate, they embellish the truth.  Why?  Because they’re kids, simple as that.  They don’t mean to cause harm to anyone, it’s just “self-preservation” when you’re a kid, you don’t want to get in trouble, they have no concept of how a lie can cost someone their life and livelihood..

But there are also troubled kids, teens that make lying, stealing and cheating a life-long pattern. They will do or say whatever they have to to get what they want and they don’t care who they hurt.

When it comes to teens, one TV court judge said it best, “How do you know when a teenager is lying? Their mouths are moving.”

We don’t know who’s innocent and who’s lying in this case, the only facts we have are what we read in the news. But, it’s a reminder to ourselves to remain open minded, not judge a book by it’s cover, not to automatically believe a child over an adult when it comes to sex offense accusations. It’s difficult, we see children with innocent faces and our imaginations run amuk with thoughts of the horrors they must have endured at the hands of an adult. But, we don’t know the whole story and it could just as easily be the adult who is innocent.

Dr. Calendine remains free on bond and continues to operate his medical practice in Rogersville.  The courts will convene May 21 to consider the motions filed. There has been no response as of yet to any of the newly filed motions from the attorney general’s office.

Until then, we wait, hopefully, with an open mind.

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