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Harold Grant Snowden

Other Florida No Crime Cases
In 1985, two separate indictments were returned against Harold Grant Snowden, a 38-year-old South Miami police officer, on charges of molesting children who were at his wife’s in-house day care program.
The charges against Snowden came during a wave of child sex abuse hysteria that swept through the country in the 1980s and early 1990s. Some (but not all) of these cases included allegations of satanic rituals. Many focused on day care centers.
Nationally, there have been dozens of exonerations in child sex abuse hysteria cases.
In one case, Snowden was charged with four counts of sexual battery on a girl under the age of 11. In the other case, he was accused of molesting two other children, one four years old and the other six months old.
At trial in the first case, the girl said he had assaulted her with his fingers and his penis. Snowden, a highly-decorated officer once named officer of the year, was acquitted after proving that the girl had never been at his wife’s day care center.
In March 1987, he went on trial in the second case. The child who was four years old at the time of the alleged molestation was six years old at the time and testified that she had been abused.

The only physical evidence presented was testimony by prosecution witnesses that one of the child witnesses who accused the defendant had gonorrhea of the throat and the female victim had a sexually transmitted disease, Gardnerella vaginitis. The testing of the male victim's throat did not follow protocols set out by the Centers for Disease Control, which were designed to prevent misdiagnoses from being used in child sex abuse cases. In addition, the male victim tested negative a week after testing positive, despite receiving no treatment. He was then treated with penicillin and tested negative again.

The doctor of the female victim testified that it was unlikely that the condition came from anything other than sexual activity. However, she had not verified that the victim had Gardnerella vaginitis since she only did the first round of testing after which she threw away the sample.

In addition, a microbiologist testified about the accuracy of gonorrhea tests and the rates of error on those tests.

Snowden’s lawyers argued that the female victim had been misdiagnosed and that she did not have a sexually transmitted disease but rather “a typical rash and vaginal discharge associated with children not yet toilet trained.” A doctor testified that Gardnerella was often misdiagnosed. Snowden’s lawyers also presented testimony by a pathologist who said that Snowden had tested negative for both Gardnerella and gonorrhea a year and a half after the incident.
The prosecution called an expert witness, Dr. Simon Miranda, who testified that he had interviewed 1,000 children about child abuse and that 995 of them told the truth.
On March 7, 1987, the jury convicted Snowden of five counts of child abuse after deliberating for an hour and 15 minutes. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison with combined mandatory minimum sentence of 50 years.
Over the next several years, Snowden appealed his convictions, arguing that new evidence nationally had shown that the child sex abuse hysteria was primarily the product of suggestive interview techniques which produced false claims of abuse. He alleged those coercive methods had resulted in false allegations against him.
The convictions were upheld by the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida in 1989 and the Florida Supreme Court declined to review the case.
In 1993, Snowden filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging several constitutional errors at his trial, including the destruction of evidence by the prosecution, allowing adults to testify about the child-victims’ hearsay statements, and the improper admission of expert testimony that the prosecution used to bolster the victims’ credibility. The petition was denied. The district court held that the admission of Dr. Miranda’s expert testimony, though a violation of state law, was harmless.
But in February 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned his conviction. The court found that the admission of the Miranda’s testimony that 99.5 percent of children interviewed about child abuse told the truth was improper.
The court held that permitting Miranda to “vouch forcefully for the children’s credibility” was a critical error of constitutional dimension. The court ordered a new trial.
Snowden was released on bond on March 27, 1998. The prosecution dismissed the charges on November 22, 1998.
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Sentence:50 to Life
Age at the date of reported crime:37
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No