By Attorney Melba Pearson
Special to THELAW.TV
A Los Angeles woman has grabbed headlines this week with her viral YouTube video confrontation. In this video, "Jamie X," as she is calling herself, confronted her high school teacher, who allegedly molested her many years ago. Jamie says the abuse started when she was 12, going on for several years; she is now 28. One of the reasons that Jamie made the call at this point is because she discovered her alleged abuser is now an assistant principal. The YouTube clip shows Jamie calling the teacher on the phone, and asking why the teacher manipulated her and took advantage of her position. The female teacher responded by admitting to her actions, as well as saying that she "regrets" what she did.
The video is very emotionally charged, as well as tragic. But is the video going to be admissible in court? Should Jamie X have done this controversial act?
In most states, you are not allowed to video or tape record another person without their permission. There is an exception is for law enforcement personnel, who can do so with a warrant from a judge. Of course, getting a warrant is not that easy. The police officers have to set forth their case to the judge, showing probable cause, what crimes they hope to solve, and how the target of the surveillance is connected to those crimes. The reason behind this is to prevent an invasion of your privacy. In California, the law is very clear – you cannot tape a private conversation unless both parties to the conversation give permission.
In spite of the law, was it even a good idea? In all likelihood, the video will not come in as evidence at trial. But the video was helpful for several reasons. As a result, Jamie had evidence to present to the police to jump start an investigation. There is a very liberal statute of limitations on child abuse cases, since by the very nature of the crime, reporting is often delayed. Children are abused while they are young, and as they reach adulthood, they then realize that what happened to them was wrong. Sometimes molestation victims suppress the memories, which come back to them many years later. Manipulation is a big part of a child molester's plan. At the point of adulthood, they have the strength to tell; they are better able to break the hold of the guilt and mind games of the abuser that held them hostage. However, with the delay comes a loss of evidence. This video gave police a starting point. Hopefully, if the teacher confesses once, she will confess again.
The other good part about the video is another victim has come forward as a result. While the teacher said on the video that Jamie X was the only victim, another young woman came out today, stating that she had an identical experience with this teacher. The revelation strengthens the case, and can possibly result in multiple charges of child abuse with multiple victims in the same case.
Is it the best idea to get your own confession? No. It is better to speak with local law enforcement and let them do a thorough investigation. You don't want to taint any potential evidence from your actions, not to mention the possibility putting yourself at risk.
No matter what happens, hopefully Jamie is able to get the closure she so desperately needs.
The author Melba Pearson is an attorney in South Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.
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