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"Stupid-Syndrome Syndrome"

The Michael Jackson trial, already going through an unbelievable parade of prior-act testimony, suffers from another defect:

[Dr. Michael] Urquiza, called earlier in the trial as an expert witness for the prosecution, testified about something called "child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome," or CSAAS.

He had never examined Mr. Jackson's accuser. He didn't need to. [...]

According to CSAAS experts, not reporting abuse is thus consistent with suffering from child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. So is bad behavior, trouble in school, the failure to tell an accurate story, and even the recantation of the entire allegation of abuse. In other words, every criterion usually used by the defense to discredit a witness is actually transubstantiated into evidence that is perfectly consistent with abuse.

And here's the genius: Not exhibiting these signs of CSAAS doesn't mean a child wasn't abused´┐Żjust that he or she didn't get the syndrome. In other words, a noncredible witness is suffering from the syndrome, but a credible one is merely a credible witness who was legitimately abused.

CSAAS is a prosecutorial silver bullet and a fabricator's best friend. Every mistake you make is consistent with it; every mistake you don't make further confirms your credibility. No wonder prosecutors rely on it to bolster disintegrating cases. By making credibility tautological, CSAAS makes it nearly impossible to present a defense or attack an incredible witness.

(David Feige, Slate, Apr. 6; Arthur H. Garrison, "Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome: Issues of Admissibility in Criminal Trials", IPT Journal (1998)). Compare Commonwealth v. Dunkle, 602 A.2d 830 (Pa. 1992) with Wheat v. State, 527 A.2d 269 (Del. 1987).



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.