Prosecution Foundations: Educating the Judge and Jury About the Realities of Human Trafficking

Jane Anderson, Senior Attorney Advisor with AEquitas, facilitates a conversation with Miiko Anderson, AEquitas’ newest Attorney Advisor and a former Fresno County (CA) prosecutor with extensive experience prosecuting human trafficking cases. Jane and Miiko discuss various strategies that can enhance prosecutions where judges may not have experience with cases involving sex or labor trafficking and where jurors may have misconceptions or misunderstandings about the reality of what human trafficking looks like in their community.

This webinar is the first of a podcast-style webinar series, hosted by the IACP and AEquitas, that feature conversations with various prosecutors discussing foundational elements of trauma-informed human trafficking prosecutions.  This webinar is a part of IACP/OVC’s anti-human trafficking task force training catalog.

Beyond Language Access: Confronting Bias & Implementing Strategies to Ensure Justice in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking Involving Survivors from Latine Communities

This web-based panel explores the ways in which bias against victims from Latine communities affects the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Panelists address the following topics:

-Effects of inequalities and challenges that Latine communites uniquely face as victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and human trafficking;
-Barriers to reporting crimes, such as bias and stereotypes held by law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and jurors that can translate into disparate outcomes for victims through unfair credibility determinations;
-Impact of bias on endangering accurate assessments of the probability of conviction in cases, and collateral consequences on a victim’s ability to seek restoration;
-Necessary commitments offices must make to eradicate implicit bias among its staff and enhance recruitment, mentorship, and support opportunities for individuals who are Latine; and
-Strategies for prosecutors’ offices to enhance justice for victims by engaging in cultural humility, promoting criminal record relief, improving training, and ensuring accountability reinforced by data. 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Shielding the Victim: Litigating Rape Shield Motions

Rape shield laws provide prosecutors with a powerful tool to counter defense attempts to introduce irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence of a victim’s sexual history at trial. First codified into law in 1974 in the state of Michigan, rape shield provisions now exist in every jurisdiction in the United States. They seek to eliminate the influence of an archaic and dangerous body of law that protected only the chaste, perpetuated overly broad notions of consent, and left victims without justice. All rape shield laws require exclusion of the victim’s prior sexual conduct unless the evidence falls within a specified exception. However, these laws have not stopped defense attempts to stretch the limits of codified exceptions in order to admit evidence of the victim’s sexual behavior. Marginalized communities, in particular, have been negatively affected by rulings under these laws. Prosecutors must be vigilant in their efforts to safeguard victims’ privacy to ensure they are not humiliated, silenced, and blamed for their own assaults.

This presentation discusses the history and foundation of rape shield laws, identifies and discusses the most frequent areas of appellate litigation, and provides prosecutors with the tools to effectively litigate rape shield motions. Presenters also discuss trial strategies to employ if efforts to preclude information about a victim’s prior sexual conduct are unsuccessful.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:
-Litigate rape shield motions to protect victim privacy
-Prosecute cases using an offender-focused approach
-Employ strategies to mitigate harm to the victim and the case when evidence of victim’s prior sexual conduct is admitted

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Agriculture’s Growing Problem: Investigating and Prosecuting Labor Trafficking and Co-Occurring Crimes in the Illicit Cannabis Industry

Despite the recent legalization of cannabis cultivation, possession, and use in many states across the country, the illicit market for the drug is still booming. The illicit cannabis industry is causing profound harm to the communities in which it operates—harm that goes far beyond simply producing off-the-books marijuana. Illicit market growers often seek to sidestep agricultural and worker regulations, causing widespread environmental harms, including blackouts, water theft, damage to flora and fauna, poisoned waterbeds, and wildfires. The human cost of illicit cannabis growth is even greater. Across the country, investigators have discovered laborers who have been forced to work in inhumane conditions—often without pay—and in close proximity to dangerous chemicals at illegal cannabis cultivation sites. Workers are often threatened with physical violence or deportation if they report to authorities.

 

Pursuing these crimes often requires a specialized skill set among prosecutors and investigators. This Strategies Newsletter demonstrates how investigators and prosecutors, working in conjunction with local and federal stakeholders, can ensure that labor traffickers in the illicit marijuana industry are held accountable for the full range of their conduct.Agriculture’s Growing Problem

Tapping into Offender Accountability: Using Wiretapping in State-Level Human Trafficking Cases

Law enforcement are regularly challenged to build cases that can be successfully prosecuted when victims are unable to participate. There are a myriad of ways to build cases that are not wholly dependent on victim testimony, and one powerful strategy is to use wiretaps that can capture communications and ultimately establish the elements of “force, fraud, or coercion”. Eavesdropping warrant investigations are technical and resource-intensive, however they are highly effective in obtaining evidence to prosecute offenders without relying on testimony from victims who are often fearful, distrustful, intimidated, and traumatized.

This training focuses on how prosecutors and law enforcement can effectively use eavesdropping warrants to hold traffickers accountable and build strong, actionable investigations even if wiretapping is not ultimately employed. Presenters provide approaches to maximize resources, even when limited, to enable jurisdictions of all sizes to utilize eavesdropping warrants. Additionally, practical strategies to comply with ethical and legal obligations are discussed, including methods to minimize harm and trauma to victims and survivors.

Learning Objectives:
-Build an investigation sufficient to support an application for an eavesdropping warrant
-Define legal requirements before, during, and after intercepting electronic communications
-Litigate pretrial motions to admit out-of-court statements and expert testimony

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

When and How: Admitting Expert Testimony on Victim Behavior in Sexual Assault Cases in Pennsylvania

On June 29, 2012, Pennsylvania shed its distinction of being the only state in which expert testimony to explain victim behavior in sexual assault cases was inadmissible by enacting Section 5920 of the Judicial Code, “Expert testimony in certain criminal proceedings.” The law, which became effective on August 28, 2012, is a critical tool for prosecutors seeking to provide a context for understanding sexual assault and sexual assault victims, as well as to counter entrenched myths and misperceptions about sexual assault and sexual assault victims. This article explains the prevalence of sexual violence myths among the public, how expert testimony on sexual assault victims’ behavior can help dispel these myths, and strategies for introducing such testimony at trial.AEquitas_When-and-How-Admitting-Expert-Testimony-on-Victim-Behavior-in-PA-Issue-18_5-2013

From Jail, to Bail, to Sale: Trafficking and the Criminal Justice System

Traffickers target individuals whom they believe they can exploit with impunity – individuals who are accessible, vulnerable, and less likely to report their exploitation to law enforcement. As a result, individuals who have a criminal record, are under court supervision, or are otherwise subject to the authority of the criminal justice system are at higher risk for exploitation. Individuals who also struggle with addiction and substance use disorders are especially vulnerable to coercion. The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report has identified “participants in court-ordered substance use diversion programs” as individuals especially vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking, and recent news reports have validated this assertion. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking includes action items aimed at countering common trafficker tactics of manipulating and exploiting individuals with substance use disorders.

This presentation identifies trafficking schemes that involve recruitment from local jails and prisons, as well as from court-sanctioned treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. The presenters focus on strategies to address victim safety concerns and investigate and prosecute trafficking that intersects with the criminal justice system. Throughout the discussion, the presenters underscore the importance of trauma-informed practices and a multidisciplinary response that includes meaningful access to survivor-led programing and low-barrier services, including appropriate healthcare.

Learning Objectives:
-Identify how traffickers identify, recruit, and coerce victims from jails, prisons, and court-ordered programs.
-Investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases in which victims have intersected with the criminal justice system.
-Collaborate with allied professionals to overcome barriers and provide meaningful access to justice for systems-involved victims.

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A Course of Exploitation: The Intersection of Stalking and Sex Trafficking

When offenders engage in a course of conduct that includes sexual exploitation, they perpetrate dangerous and often misidentified and misunderstood crimes, including stalking and sex trafficking. Both crimes are highly contextual in nature and require a nuanced analysis of the relationship between the offender and the victim, as well as the various tactics utilized by abusers to control, intimidate, and traumatize victims with impunity. Stalking behaviors are used to force or coerce individuals to engage in commercial sexual activities or to intimidate and prevent them from engaging with the criminal justice system.

Presenters explore the dynamics of stalking and sex trafficking. They focus on the importance of understanding the context in which both crimes occur and the common tactics used by perpetrators. This presentation provides strategies to improve the identification of these “course of conduct” crimes, increase offender accountability through successful investigations and prosecutions, and minimize further harm to victims and survivors by ensuring they are connected with meaningful services and tools to plan for their safety.

At the end of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Recognize the intersections between stalking and sexual exploitation
-Investigate and prosecute crimes of stalking and sexual exploitation
-Connect victims and survivors to meaningful services, including safety planning

 

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and 2017-TA-AX-K074 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

Despite the volume of research and literature addressing sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member, individuals inside and outside of the criminal justice system continue to misperceive common dynamics, misunderstand victim behavior, and minimize offender dangerousness. Judges and juries unfamiliar with the dynamics of sexual assault may overlook offenders’ grooming tactics or misperceive common victim reactions to abuse as evidence of the victim’s lack of credibility. Prosecutors handling these cases face unique challenges. This article contains ten strategies that will help prosecutors prepare and litigate cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against a child by a family member.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Ten Strategies for Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse at the Hands of a Family Member

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

This article explains the problems that have arisen as a result of overreliance on conviction rates in cases of sexual violence. It identifies the core principles that should inform a model response to these crimes to further the goals of justice — i.e., offender accountability, victim well-being, and community safety. Finally, it discusses how prosecutors can broaden definitions of “success” in the prosecution of sexual violence, and how they can measure their current response as well as efforts toward improvement.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions