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MacArthur Campbell

Other New Mexico Exonerations
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On May 2, 2002, police were called to an apartment building in Albuquerque, New Mexico because the manager of the complex reported that one of her tenants claimed that her boyfriend, 40-year-old MacArthur Campbell, had sexually molested her five-year-old son, I.J.

The boy was taken to a hospital for an examination, which revealed some anal tears. He reported that on four occasions beginning in October 2001 and as recently as that morning, Campbell had digitally assaulted him.

Campbell denied the allegations, but was arrested that day and charged with four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor.

Campbell went to trial in Bernalillo County District Court in December 2003. Lt. Daniel Harada, a paramedic with the Albuquerque Fire Department, testified that he was summoned by the police. He said that when he arrived in response to the molestation call, the boy was playing with another child in a busy parking lot near the street with no parental supervision. Harada said he took the boy’s vital information and noticed that his mother seemed unconcerned and even left at one point to go to the store. He testified that I.J. did not have specific complaints and no trauma was noted in his report.

Mia Fletcher, another paramedic, rode to the hospital with I.J. and his mother. Fletcher said the boy was very gregarious, not scared or hesitant and was in fact “very cooperative.” The boy did not indicate that he was in physical pain. The boy’s mother, in contrast, seemed unaffected and her demeanor was flat. Fletcher said that after police spoke to the mother at the hospital, however, she began to admonish the boy saying, “What did you tell them?” She also said to him: “You better sit down and shut up,” “Stop that” and “Don’t you know by you saying this, you’re getting him in a lot of trouble?” At that point, Fletcher testified, the boy became withdrawn.

I.J., who was by then seven years old, gave conflicting testimony. At one point, he told the jury he didn’t know Campbell, but then described four incidents during which Campbell put his finger in the boy’s anus. During cross-examination, he said both that he saw Campbell and his mother fighting and yelling at each other, and also that he never saw them quarrel.

Lydia Vandiver, the sexual assault nurse examiner at the hospital, testified that the boy’s mother, who appeared intoxicated, told her, “My boyfriend molested my little boy but I didn’t see it.” The mother said that the boy’s adoptive father, Roy, had done the same thing when the boy was four years old, but she never reported it and Roy had since been sent to prison.

Vandiver said the mother said the boy had been experiencing problems with diarrhea. Vandiver testified that the boy had serious hygiene issues and had defecated in his pants. She cleaned him and during an examination, saw tears on his anus. She testified that he had flattened anal folds, which could be congenital or consistent with having constipation or secondarily from diarrhea.

Vandiver told the jury she heard the boy tell his mother, “I’ll be okay, Mom. I’m on your side.”

Vandiver said she asked I.J. if he knew why he was there and he replied, “Campbell is going back to jail” and “he did bad touch.” Vandiver said he told her Campbell touched his anus and it burned like “sitting on a stove.” Vandiver asked him how he felt about Campbell and the boy said, “I don’t like Campbell. He always gets in a fight with my mom.”

Dr. Renee Ornelas testified as an expert in the medical evaluation of children for sexual abuse. Dr. Ornelas said when she examined I.J. on the day the police were called, she found tears to the boy’s anus – which was consistent with penetration by a finger or a penis – but no swelling and that the tears were nearly healed. Dr. Ornelas also testified that I.J. told her that both his father and Campbell had put their penises in his anus.

Dr. Ornelas testified that when she first saw I.J., he had defecated in his pants and had poor muscle tone in his sphincter. She said that she saw him again, about seven weeks later after he had been placed in foster care, and was informed that the boy regularly defecated in his pants. Campbell’s lawyer asked whether the injuries could have been the result of the boy or others attempting to clean him up after he defecated in his pants, but Ornelas said she did not know.

Detective Michelle Garcia with the Albuquerque Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit testified that she met the boy’s mother at the hospital and that she appeared intoxicated. Garcia testified that I.J. told her that Campbell put his fingers and his “wee-wee” in his bottom on four occasions, the final time that very morning in the bathroom, while his mother was in the apartment. The boy said he screamed but no one heard him.

Julia Washington, I.J.’s foster parent, testified that he defecated on himself several times a day and continued to do so until she trained him to stop. She also said that I.J. was prone to “fantasy talking,” such as telling her that he broke his leg that day but it healed.

The boy’s mother was not called to testify because she died in November 2002.

Campbell testified and denied improperly touching the boy. He said that he met the boy’s mother at a homeless shelter and moved in with her in January 2002—two months after the boy claimed he was first molested. Campbell said that on May 1—the day before the police were called—he and the boy’s mother quarreled about whether he was having an affair and that he scratched her face and “thumped” her nose. That night, Campbell said, he heard the boy and his mother having a conversation during which he suspected she planted the idea of accusing him of sexual molestation. Campbell said he left for work at 7 a.m. the next morning and did not see the boy at all, let alone molest him in the bathroom.

The defense contended I.J.’s mother had coached him to falsely accuse Campbell because she wanted revenge for him having an affair with another woman. Campbell’s defense attorney intended to call two other witnesses – Albuquerque police Officer Brian Archibeque, and Dr. Jude Pardee, an expert in child sex abuse—but the judge barred their testimony.

Officer Brian Archibeque was to testify that at about 1 a.m. on May 9, 2002—one week after Campbell was arrested—he was called to the mother’s apartment to investigate a domestic disturbance between the mother and another man. The defense argued that this showed that the woman had a relationship with another man around the time of the complaint against Campbell and that it showed that she had “a motive, intent and possibly a plan to remove Mr. Campbell from the premises.”

Dr. Pardee was to testify about the capabilities and limitations of young children in accurate reporting, and the factors may contribute to false reports of child sex abuse—including the child’s age, the child’s relations to authority figures and the effects of suggestive questioning by adults. The defense noted that I.J. had given conflicting accounts, saying alternatively that Campbell penetrated him with a finger only or with his penis as well.

Dr. Pardee also found the mother to be inconsistent in her accounts. She had been drinking on the day of the report, and claimed her then-imprisoned husband also had molested the boy previously, but she had not reported anything to authorities. The boy, it appeared, had witnessed domestic violence and during his various interviews used language that seemed to mimic what his mother said about Campbell. Pardee said the social workers who questioned the boy had asked him leading questions, which was not a proper technique.

On May 13, 2002, the jury acquitted Campbell on all four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor, but convicted him of one count of a lesser charge of criminal sexual contact with a minor. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

In February 2007, the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the judge erroneously barred Dr. Pardee’s testimony. The testimony would have provided an “understanding of why the child had conflicting accounts of what had occurred, why a child might be motivated to fabricate a story of sexual abuse and the possible effect that outside influences have on a child reporting sexual abuse.”

Dr. Pardee’s testimony, the court ruled, was “relevant and admissible, as well as essential to the defense” and would have been “helpful to the jury concerning the factors leading to false reports of abuse.”

On May 15, 2008, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/15/2016
State:New Mexico
County:Bernalillo
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Convicted:2003
Exonerated:2008
Sentence:4 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:40
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No