THE POLICE AND FABRICATION OF EVIDENCE
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the police from fabricating evidence; that the courts still have to remind law enforcement of this basic premise speaks volumes about how intrinsic corruption is in policing throughout the country. For example, continued investigation of an individual who the police knew, or should have known, is innocent creates prima facie evidence that the police are trying to frame the innocent person.
How can the police fabricate evidence?
Mischaracterized Witness Statements
One of the more common methods involves the police mischaracterizing the statements of a witness or witnesses in their offense reports. Establishing mischaracterization of witness statements is considered by the courts to be direct evidence of fabrication. In what the courts refer to as “direct evidence” cases, it does not matter whether the police had actual knowledge or reason to believe the defendant was innocent. In other words, the only issue is whether the police mischaracterized a witness’s statement to create a greater inference of culpability against the suspect of a criminal act.
What does fabrication of witness statements look like in real life?
The Police Frameup of Clyde Raymond Spencer
On May 18, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals painted a portrait of this corrupt police practice in the case of Spencer v. Krause. The sordid details ironed out in the court’s lengthy opinion are actually not uncommon in child sex cases.
Clyde Raymond Spencer, a former Vancouver, Washington police officer, was married to DeAnne Spencer in the early 1980s. They had two children in the marriage—Matthew and Kathryn. The couple divorced with the mother retaining primary custody of the children. She relocated with the children to Sacramento, California. Spencer remained in Vancouver where he entered into a relationship with Karen Stone for a period of approximately two years. Matthew and Kathryn came to visit the couple from Sacramento on a fairly regular basis, sometimes staying for extended periods of time during these early 1980 years.
Spencer’s relationship with Karen Stone ended. He then married his second wife Shirley Spencer who had a son named “Matthew” Hansen (“Hansen”) from a previous marriage. Spencer, Shirley and Hansen all lived together in Vancouver.
Wild Allegations of Sexual Abuse Spark Corrupt Investigation
In the summer of 1984, DeAnne allowed Matthew (age 8) and Kathryn (age 5) to spend six weeks with Spencer, Shirley and Hansen (age 4). On the last weekend of the visit, Kathryn told Shirley that she had been sexually abused by four people. The sex acts included vaginal and oral sex. The four people she named as her abusers were: Spencer, DeAnne, Karen and Matthew.
Spencer and Shirley immediately notified Child Protective Services (CPS) in both California and Washington. California CPS notified Sacramento police about the abuse allegations. Sacramento Detective Pat Flood contacted Spencer and Shirley—both of whom recounted the outcry Kathryn made to Shirley.
Detective Flood initiated an investigation, first contacting DeAnne. He quickly eliminated her as a suspect after she took and passed a polygraph examination. The detective then interviewed Matthew and Kathryn who had just returned from Vancouver. Matthew denied any knowledge of sexual abuse and Kathryn was “extremely shy” during her interview. Detective Flood, who died before Kathryn’s allegations reached a courtroom, left these observations behind in his notes:
Kathryn “indicated that she did tell Shirley everything that Shirley advised me of but then when asked to explain it or asked specific questions about it, she would say that she couldn’t remember the words so she couldn’t tell me.”
Conflicting Statements and No Physical Evidence of Abuse
Detective Flood added that Kathryn gave conflicting statements when she was queried about anyone touching her inappropriately.
DeAnne then took Kathryn to a doctor for a medical examination. That exam “found no evidence of sexual abuse,” reported the Ninth Circuit.
At this juncture in the criminal investigation it was just as likely as not that Kathryn had made up the sweeping sexual abuse allegations against her family.
Police Tunnel Vision, Fabrication Leads to Wrongful Conviction
In the State of Washington, however, Vancouver Sheriff’s Detective Sharon Krause was just getting wound up. She had a target in sight and launched into a prey-stalking mode that inevitably leads to police tunnel vision—she was determined to nail the former male law enforcement officer to the cross regardless of the costs or methods needed to do that.
Krause initially asked Karen Stone to take a polygraph examination, and while Stone agreed to take the test, she never met the eight attempts by Krause to have the exam conducted. Nonetheless, in December 1984, Krause terminated her investigation of Stone.
Spencer, on the other hand, not only agreed to take a polygraph exam, he showed up on September 21, 1984 with Shirley to take the test set up by Krause. The results of the test were inconclusive so Spencer agreed to undergo a second test. The results of the second test “suggested deception” but “not very strongly,” as the Ninth Circuit noted. In fact, the examiner stated explicitly in his notes stated that Spencer’s “scores were not very high so that the examiner does not feel as certain about the validity of these findings as in most examinations.”
Officer on Mission for Conviction
The polygraph results notwithstanding, Krause was on a mission to get a child molester.
In October 1984, the detective traveled to Sacramento where she interviewed DeAnne, Matthew, two of DeAnne’s sisters and even DeAnne’s mother. These family members told the detective they had no knowledge of sexual abuse “of Kathryn by anyone.”
It was the Sacramento visit that prompted Detective Krause to engage in a corrupt fabrication of evidence scheme to nail Spencer. She prepared a report about her interviews with DeAnne’s family, explicitly detailing many “questions to Matthew,” although Matthew would later testify under oath that “many of those questions were fabricated,” as appeals court pointed out.
The Ninth Circuit added that Krause’s report fabricated “statements that incorrectly portrayed Matthew as comfortable with Krause and incorrectly portrayed Matthew as generally aware of the allegations of sexual abuse.”
The police fabrication gets worse.
While in Sacramento, Krause also interviewed Kathryn twice. “The interviews took place almost entirely in Krause’s motel room and her rental car, without anyone else present,” the appeals court pointed out. “Krause’s contemporaneous investigative reports claim that Kathryn described in great detail, sexual abuse by [Spencer]. The reports contain scores of specific, explicit quotations attributed to Kathryn. At [a subsequent civil] trial, however, Kathryn testified that, other than some trivial quotations unrelated to sexual abuse, all the quotations were fabrication. Kathryn testified that, in fact, she denied that anyone had sexually abused her.”
Krause had what she wanted. Her investigation in Vancouver had failed to develop any credible evidence of sexual abuse, so she went to Sacramento determined to either find or fabricate evidence of child sexual abuse against Spencer.
Deliberate, Methodical Fabrication
It boggles the mind, the imagination that a police detective could be so deliberate, so methodical, so concerted in an unlawful effort to frame an innocent man.
In November 1984, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, with whom Krause was employed, requested that a King County prosecutor examine the investigative file that had thus far been compiled concerning Kathryn’s sexual abuse allegations. That prosecutor quickly concluded that the evidence of sexual abuse was “legally insufficient.” The Ninth Circuit explained the prosecutor’s reasons for reaching that conclusion:
“First, Kathryn appeared to be ‘extremely reluctant to talk about facts,’ and Kathryn’s failure to disclose the abuse to her counselor did ‘not bode well for testifying in court.’ Second, the fact that Kathryn identified ‘multiple suspects is very disturbing,’ because it suggested a lack of credibility. Third, there were inconsistencies ‘over all issues’: the number of times abuse occurred, what [Spencer] was wearing, and what Kathryn was wearing. Fourth, certain details commonly reported by victims of sexual abuse were lacking from Kathryn’s account.”
That King County prosecutor’s report should have put an end to the investigation into Kathryn’s incredulous allegations of sexual abuse by her family members.
Victim Denies Sexual Abuse
But that did not happen. Even after being told by Kathryn that there had been no sexual abuse, Detective Krause unsuccessfully tried to cultivate an ally in Clark County prosecutor Jim Peters who, in early December 1984, videotaped an interview he conducted with Kathryn. The Ninth Circuit’s analysis of this interview underscore just how out of control Krause was:
“ … According to Peters, the purpose [of the interview] was to find out ‘whether [Kathryn] could tell me the story of what happened and whether I thought she might be competent’; it was not an investigative interview. For that reason, Peters was not concerned about using techniques—such as coaching or suggestive questioning—that would be improper if used during an investigation.
“On the videotape, which was played for the [civil] jury, Kathryn appeared very uncomfortable during the entire 45-minute initial interview. Very early on, she asked Krause to leave the room, even though Krause’s investigative reports portrayed Kathryn as extremely comfortable with her. Kathryn was unable to describe [Spencer’s] alleged conduct—until after an hour-long break. After the break, in a ten-minute follow-up interview, Kathryn described various acts of sexual abuse by [Spencer]. Kathryn testified at [the civil] trial in this case that, during the break, she had been coached about what to say and that she went along with describing acts of sexual abuse just so that the distressing interview would end.
“Throughout the interview, Kathryn appeared eager to leave. Peters began the post-break interview by stating, ‘while the camera was off, [Kathryn] showed me something with the dolls, didn’t you?’ After some coaxing, Kathryn demonstrated, using two anatomically correct dolls, two acts of sexual abuse. Peters then asked, ‘anything else?’ to which Kathryn responded, ‘I forgot the last thing.’ Peters later told his supervisor, in essence, that ‘I wouldn’t charge [the case] and I don’t want my name on the charging document.’”
Any rational-thinking person would have said “case closed” on Kathryn’s sexual abuse allegations.
Not the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
Someone in the office had been swayed by Detective Krause’s fabrications, even though its own prosecutor, Jim Peters, said he did not want his name “on the charging document,” and in January 1985, they charged Spencer with two counts of sexually abusing Kathryn. He pled not guilty and was released from custody.
Still, the law enforcement dirty deeds were not over; in fact, Detective Krause had only just begun to corrupt the investigative process.
Corrupt Detective Continues Vendetta
In February 1985, Spencer and Shirley separated. Spencer moved into a motel room. On February 16, Shirley dropped Hansen off at the motel to spend the night with Spencer. It was an obvious “set up” attempt instigated by Detective Krause. The Ninth Circuit described the events this way:
“[Spencer’s] counsel [at the civil trial] argued that Shirley would not have dropped off her own four-year-old son had she believed that [Spencer] was a child rapist and that the incident gave Krause an opportunity to cure the defects in the case that earlier prosecutors had noted. For example, Krause reported that Hansen described certain details that one of the prosecutors had identified as conspicuously missing from Kathryn’s account of sexual abuse.
“After the night at the motel, Krause interviewed Hansen. According to the investigative report, Hansen told Krause that [Spencer] sexually abused him on that night, including having anal sex with him. Officers arrested [Spencer]. In a follow-up interview, Hansen recalled molestation by [Spencer] during the summer of 1984 of all three children—him, Matthew, and Kathryn. (Unlike Matthew and Kathryn, Hansen testified at the [civil [ trial that [Spencer] did, in fact, molest him.
“Krause then re-interviewed Kathryn and Matthew separately and prepared further investigative reports. According to those reports, both children described, in detail, sexual abuse by [Spencer] of all three children. As with the earlier reports, both Kathryn and Matthew testified at trial that many of the quotations attributed to them were fabricated.”
In May 1985, Spencer was charge with statutory rape of all three children in Clark County.
Innocent Man Sentenced to Two Life Sentences
Maintaining his innocence, Spencer, that same month, entered an “Alford plea”—a judicial plea that allows a defendant to plead guilty while maintaining his innocence. Spencer chose to enter the Alford plea because the Krause fabricated evidence against him was overwhelming. The plea resulted in two life sentences in addition to 171 months in prison.
Spencer would spend the next 20 years in prison before, in 2004, the Governor of Washington commuted his sentences to “community supervision.”
Five years later, as the case against him unraveled, Spencer was allowed by the state court to withdraw his Alford plea. The following year, 2010, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against him.
Civil Rights Lawsuit Receives $9 Million
Spencer wasted no time in filing a civil rights lawsuit against Krause and her supervisor, Sgt. Michael Davidson. A jury found in favor of Spence, awarding him $9 million in damages. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, however, granted a post-trial motion by the defendants, ruling that, as a matter of law, the jury verdict should be set aside because Spencer had not presented any evidence that the defendants knew, or should have known, that he was innocent when Krause fabricated the evidence against him.
The Ninth Circuit overruled the district court, finding that Spencer was under no evidentiary obligation to prove that the defendants knew or should have known that he was innocent. Reinstating the jury’s verdict and damage award against Krause, the Ninth Circuit condemned her entire investigation protocol:
“Ample evidence in the record supports the jury’s findings on causation. If Kathryn’s testimony is discredited, very little evidence of [Spencer’s] guilt actually exists. Indeed, even with the fabricated evidence in the file, two prosecutors independently recommended that charges not be brought. Moreover, roughly the same amount of evidence implicated Stone as implicated [Spencer]—yet prosecutors declined to charge Stone, strongly suggesting that, had Krause not fabricated any evidence, prosecutors would have declined to charge [Spencer].”
Collusion Between Police and Parents Not Uncommon
The Clyde Raymond Spencer case is extremely important. This sort criminal, and morally reprehensible, collusion between the police and the parents of alleged child sex victims is not as uncommon as one might think. The police have one basic responsibility: to gather the facts and develop those facts so that the truth can be known. They too often fail this responsibility in child sexual abuse cases.
At some point after meeting Spencer, Detective Krause, without any factual evidence, made a determination that he was guilty—and when the facts failed to support her biased beliefs, she fabricated “alternative facts” to frame the innocent man. And her supervisor signed off on the frame-up job.
These two law enforcement officers, sworn to protect and serve, cost an innocent man 20 years of his life in prison and another 12 years of court litigation to fully establish his innocence.
Still Convicted Sex Offender
And the ordeal is not over. Spencer is still a convicted sex offender who must register as such. Hopefully, the civil jury verdict will ultimately lead to a state court vacating the Spencer’s convictions. A judicial pronouncement of exoneration should follow.
It will take more years to have the injustice wiped completely from Spencer’s life. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office, while acknowledging the injustice done to Spencer, will fight his judicial exoneration. Exoneration would lead to state compensation: $50,000 for each year Spencer spent in actual confinement and another $25,000 for each year he spent under community supervision and/or as a registered sex offender.
And what about Detective Sharon Krause?
While she should be sitting in a federal prison this day, she is instead enjoying the fruits of retirement from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office while the State of Washington picks up the tab for her criminal wrongdoing. A bitter injustice, indeed.