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Troy Thompson

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations Where No Crime Occurred
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In February 2014, 40-year-old Troy Thompson was charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The girl, identified as J.G., and her mother had moved into the Thompson home in the summer of 2013 because the mother and Thompson’s wife were friends. When they moved out of the house in the fall, J.G. told her mother that Thompson had improperly touched her buttocks, her breasts, and digitally penetrated her vagina.

A sexual assault nurse and a Battle Creek detective conducted several interviews with J.G., who gave varying accounts.  After a medical exam was negative for evidence of a sexual assault, J.G. said she had not been digitally penetrated. During the interviews, she said Thompson fondled her buttocks and breasts between five and 10 times.

Thompson, who denied any improper behavior, went to trial in Calhoun County Circuit Court in December 2014. During her testimony, J.G. said she had been touched more than 20 times. She said she gave inconsistent accounts because she was scared.

Thompson’s wife, Julie, testified that she believed J.G. had a childish crush on Troy and that she had warned him to not spend time with her.  She testified that J.G. sought Troy’s attention and would lie about being mistreated by her father (whom she visited occasionally) so that Troy would pay attention to her.

On December 4, 2014, the jury acquitted Thompson of one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and convicted him of two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison.

In October 2015, Thompson’s appeals attorney, Suzanna Kostovski, asked for a hearing to determine if Thompson’s trial attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense.

At the hearing in 2016, Kostovski presented evidence that Thompson’s attorney had retained Katherine Okla, a clinical psychologist and expert in child-interviewing techniques. Okla had prepared a report that said J.G.’s multiple interviews were highly suggestive and improperly conducted. 

Okla noted that J.G. had been caught viewing pornography and that some of the incidents she described were suggested by the interviewers and others mirrored some of the pornography she viewed.  Okla suggested that J.G. may have attempted to deflect attention from her viewing of pornography by falsely accusing Thompson of sexually assaulting her, or that she falsely accused him because he rebuffed her affection for him. Despite all the information in the reports, Thompson’s trial attorney never called Okla to testify, so the jury was not able to consider her conclusions.

Kostovski presented testimony from Dr. Ira Schaer, another expert in child-interviewing techniques, who agreed with Okla that the interviews of J.G. were deeply flawed.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial judge vacated Thompson’s convictions and ordered a new trial. The judge said that the defense “clearly should have” called Okla to testify. “There’s no physical evidence,” the judge noted. “There was a change in testimony on the victim’s part. There (were) inconsistencies. There were violations of the (interviewing) protocol up and down, over and over in this process that should have been explored and explained to the jury on behalf of the defense.”

The judge also found it “incomprehensible” that the defense attorney had failed even to use Okla’s report to cross-examine prosecution witnesses who interviewed J.G.

The prosecution appealed, and on January 19, 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the ruling granting a new trial. On February 27, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Thompson was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/10/2017
State:Michigan
County:Calhoun
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2013
Convicted:2014
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:4 to 15 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:40
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No