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Larry Pohlschneider

Other California Exonerations In Child Victim Cases
On October 6, 2000, Ceandy Curry, the mother of three children, went to a Walmart in Red Bluff, California and picked up photographs from eight rolls of film going back as far back as Christmas 1999.

Larry Pohlschneider, Curry’s partner at the time, examined the photographs and noticed that one of the photographs showed the naked buttocks of Curry’s 10-year old daughter and the hand of Curry’s eight-year-old son. The two children were born during Curry’s previous marriage to Albert Harris, who had moved from California to Oklahoma in June 2000.

Pohlschneider and Curry questioned the two children, as well Curry’s 11-year-old daughter, who was Larry Pohlschneider’s child. All three said the photograph was taken by Harris, and that he had been raping them. The two younger children said Harris began molesting them before Harris and Curry were divorced. The oldest child said Harris molested her when Harris came to babysit for all three children when Pohlschneider was diagnosed with cancer and he and Curry would stay overnight at the hospital for his treatment.

Red Bluff police were notified and the children were taken for medical examinations. Sandra Relyea, a physician’s assistant examined the eight-year-old boy and reported that she believed that he had been molested more recently than June 2000, when Harris left California. That finding prompted police to conduct numerous interviews with the three children that culminated with all three children making statements that Pohlschneider as well as Harris had molested them.

By that time, police had arrested Harris in Oklahoma. He admitted to raping the children. Ultimately, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Pohlschneider was arrested on November 16, 2000 and charged with three counts of sexual molestation of children under the age of 14.

Even though all three children recanted their accusations against Pohlschneider, the prosecution pressed ahead and Pohlschneider went to trial in Tehama County Superior Court in January 2001—two months after he was arrested.

The three children testified that only Harris had molested them and that Pohlschneider had not molested them. All three admitted they had lied to the police after extensive interrogation.

The prosecution then introduced the statements made by the children to the detectives and called an expert on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome. That expert, Ray Carlson, told the jury that it was common for children who had been sexually abused to flip-flop—making accusations and then recanting them.

The physician’s assistant who examined the eight-year-old boy testified that the boy exhibited physical signs of sexual abuse that occurred after Harris moved to Oklahoma. Dr. Michael Vovakes, who examined the two girls, testified that the girls both showed signs of sexual molestation that were consistent with “recent” assaults.

Pohlschneider testified in his own defense and told the jury that he had never done anything improper with the children. He also testified that during the time when he was alleged to have molested the children, he was undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer and was extremely ill from the side effects of the cocktail of drugs that he was being administered.

On January 30, 2001, the jury convicted Pohlschneider on three counts of sexual molestation of a child under 14. At sentencing, the trial judge vacated one of the convictions for insufficient evidence and then sentenced Pohlschneider to 24 years in prison—terms of 12 years for each count, to be served consecutively.

California's Third District Court of Appeal upheld the convictions in 2002.

In April 2015, the Northern California Innocence Project filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Pohlschneider’s conviction.

The petition cited expert testimony that Relyea’s finding of recent sexual abuse was incorrect and not based on any physical evidence. The expert, Dr. James Crawford-Jakubiak, medical director of the Center for Child Protection at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, reviewed the medical reports of Relyea and Dr. Vovakes. He testified that “the medical professionals in this case did not follow the proper protocol in documenting child sexual assault examinations, did not provide proper supervision of (Relyea) and came to erroneous conclusions at trial based on the medical evidence.”

Crawford-Jakubiak said that Relyea’s conclusions were “improper, unsupported by physician evidence or simply false,” the petition said.

The petition also cited analysis by Kamala London, a psychologist and expert in the field of interrogations of children in child abuse cases. Kamala concluded that the interrogations by the detectives were “improper and rendered the children’s statements unreliable.” London found interviewer bias, the improper use of repeated interviews and repeated questions, the failure to use open-ended questions and the use of suggestive questioning.

London also concluded that Carlson’s testimony about Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome was inaccurate and not supported by any scientific literature. London concluded that much of Carlson’s testimony was “unfounded, misleading and false,” the petition said.

The petition alleged that Pohlschneider’s trial was constitutionally unfair because his defense attorney failed to hire any experts to review the physical examination findings, to counter Carlson’s testimony about Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome or to support Pohlschneider’s testimony that he was extremely weak during the time he was accused of raping the children.

The Tehama County District Attorney’s Office opposed the petition, arguing that Pohlschneider had waited too long to file the petition and that his defense attorney had in fact provided an adequate defense by conducting vigorous cross-examinations of the prosecution witnesses.

On October 7, 2015, the prosecution changed positions and conceded that Pohlschneider’s defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense and the motion to vacate the convictions was granted. The prosecution dismissed the charges, citing a lack of evidence, and Pohlschneider was released.

In November 2015, Pohlschneider was granted a certificate of innocence.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/13/2015
Last Updated: 11/25/2015
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2000
Sentence:24 years
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No