Michigan Supreme Court Orders New Trials For Two Men Convicted of Sex Crimes

A picture of an empty courtroom, showing what the room could look like where each of the Allen County men will stand trial again.
Two Allen County men convicted of sex crimes against minors will be granted new trials, according to The Michigan Supreme Court.

Sexual assault cases, especially the ones involving minor children, are one of the hardest type of cases to fight against. They’re also one of the hardest accusations for a person to bear, especially when the accusations are false. We know first hand about that. The Kronzek Firm has been fighting sex assault cases in lower Michigan for 25 years. So for two men from Allegan County in Michigan, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding their new trials is very good news.

Sexual assault is a very emotionally charged subject. Juries struggle to hear a tearful testimony from someone and not believe it. Add to that the expert testimony of police officers in uniform, doctors in lab coats, and forensic specialists with long, official sounding titles, and it can be very hard to prove your innocence in court. But our Michigan Supreme Court is now questioning whether these two men got a fair shake. Kudos to them. 

The case of Joshua Lee Thorpe:

33-year-old Joshua Lee Thorpe was accused of sexually assaulting his step-daughter, who was 8-years-old at the time of the alleged assaults. According to the accuser’s testimony, Thorpe touched her genitals on two separate occasions in his home, and on the third occasion, made her touch his genitals

In 2016 he was convicted on three counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under the age of 13, and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Thorpe appealed the jury’s decision, claiming the victim made inconsistent statements in her testimony, but lost that appeal.

The case of Brandon James Harbison

25-year-old Brandon James Harbison was convicted on several counts of different sexual crimes against a victim under the age of 13. The charges against him included two counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, Attempted First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, two counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and one count of Accosting a Child Under 16 for Immoral Purposes. 

Interestingly, Harbison appealed his conviction not once but twice, and the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld his conviction in both cases. However, the Supreme Court is now saying that Harbison didn’t receive a fair trial, due to dubious testimony from an expert witness.

Not all expert witness testimony is as “expert” as you’d think…

The Michigan Supreme Court has asked the Appeals Court to review the testimony of Dr. N. Debra Simms, a board-certified pediatrician with a sub-speciality in “child abuse pediatrics” who testified in both Harbison and Thorpe’s cases. According to the testimony Simms provided at Harbison’s trial, the victim “didn’t have any physical signs of sexual abuse, but knew very specific details about the abuse” which led Simms to diagnose her with “probable pediatric sexual abuse.” 

In Thorpe’s case, Dr Simms neither examined the alleged victim, nor was provided with any specific information about the case. However she still told the jury that the victim’s behavior was consistent with typical behavior of child victims of sexual abuse, which seems a stretch when you’ve never even met or observed the victim. Interesting that The Kronzek Firm has had similar experiences with Simms’ tainted testimony over the years. 

Battling allegations of sexual assault an be very challenging.

Sex assault cases are very challenging because a lot of the evidence tends to be hearsay or he said, she said. Proving your innocence is extremely hard, even when the only evidence against you is someone’s claim that you hurt them, or touched them in an improper way. And getting the Appeals Court, or even the Supreme Court to step in and grant new trials can take years and isn’t guaranteed. That’s the case even though we supposedly presume people in America to be innocent until proven guilty. With sex crime allegations, cops, prosecutors and juries often presume the accused person to be guilty until proven innocent. 

So if you’ve been accused of a sex crime, whether it’s child molestation, rape, attempted sexual assault, or any other crime in Michigan, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. Our aggressive and experienced sex crime defense attorneys have been helping people fight allegations of sexual assault for decades, and getting excellent results. We can be reached 24/7 for crisis intervention at 1 866 7NoJail.

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