Confessions By Individual with FAS/FAE

Confessions By Individuals With FAS/FAE

State v. Christoph
2000 WL 1854134 (Wash. App. Div. 3)

Christoph was diagnosed with FAS and was repeatedly institutionalized for psychiatric problems. When she was 16, she told a staff member at a residential adolescent psychiatric facility that she had repeatedly abused her younger sister.

The information was passed to the police, and Christoph was charged with one count of rape in the first degree. She was represented by the Public Defender's Office in Spokane. She pled guilty and was committed to custody for 21-28 weeks.

Four years later Christoph obtained new counsel and moved to vacate her guilty plea, alleging that she had been denied the effective assistance of counsel when she pled guilty. The lower court held that christoph had been denied the effective assistance of counsel, and set aside her guilty plea and conviction. The appellate court affirmed.

The lower court concluded from contemporaneous police reports that the alleged victim had never even been interviewed by authorities. Aside from Christoph's confession,

"there was no evidence a crime was committed. . . . According to the corpus delicti doctrine, a defendant's confession, unsubstantiated by independent evidence, will not sustain a conviction."

2000 WL 1854134 at *5.

The lower court

"found that counsel conducted no independent investigation of any kind. The record supports the court's finding that a minimally adequate investigation could have discovered Ms. Christoph's documented long-term mental and emotional difficulties and sufficient exculpatory evidence to warrant dismissal of the information, or at the very least, to support a plea bargain for reduced charges."

2000 WL 1854134 at *4.