The girl's younger brother, who has a milder form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, was also drawn into the case when he was questioned by an investigator without his lawyer present and under circumstances which were considered by experts to be inappropriate and damaging to the boy.
Videotapes were made of the interrogation and excerpts are available on-line.
The 13-year-old brother was questioned by a police detective in early December 2007 after his father was arrested for allegedly raping his sister; his mother was charged with allowing the abuse to happen. The boy and his sister had been placed in foster homes. The interrogator, a police detective, appears to have ignored Michigan child abuse laws which prescribe rules for questioning juveniles in sexual abuse cases. The rules warn investigators to avoid threats, promises, and leading questions, but the investigator used all of those things during his interrogation. As Brian Dickerson reports:
For nearly an hour, Detective Joseph Brousseau had grilled the boy about accusations that he and his autistic sister had been sexually molested by their father.
No, the boy insisted, he'd seen nothing to support the detective's lurid suspicions. Three times, he offered to take a lie detector test.
But Brousseau hammered away, challenging the boy's honesty, his manliness, his loyalty to his disabled sister.
Again and again, the detective told the boy his body language betrayed the burden of a terrible secret.
"What if I told you that one of those videotapes confiscated from your parents' house had you in it?" the detective asked suddenly.
The 13-year-old straightened. "Was it me doing something sexually?"
"I don't think I'd be bringing it up if it wasn't," Brousseau answered. "That's what I'm trying to tell you -- it's going to come out."
If it were merely what it purported to be -- the disclosure of a deviant father's treachery -- the videotaped exchange would be excruciating enough to watch.
But the truth is a good deal uglier than that.
Charges have been dropped. In fact, prosecutors now concede, much of what Brousseau told the boy during his Dec. 4 interrogation was a fabrication.
The damage to the family and especially to the disabled 13-year old brother in this terribly flawed case is incalculable, but a lawsuit by the family is a possibility.