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Complex issues exist in media-hyped St. Louis-area sex abuse case

A news story about a woman from the St. Louis area has gripped the country over the past few weeks. The story features allegations of sexual abuse and child endangerment.

The woman alleged that she was held captive in a house in nearby Washington Park for three years. According to police, she experienced daily instances of domestic violence and sexual assault during this time. She also claimed that she gave birth to the child of one of the people whom she said was holding her captive.

Police have arrested the adult residents of the house, a 25-year-old man and his 54-year-old mother. The man was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and promotion of prostitution; he also faces various drug and weapons charges. The woman was charged with child endangerment: police claim that a toddler and a teenager were living in "deplorable conditions" at the house.

According to reports, the alleged victim would often leave her house for days, as a young teenager, without returning home. Her family said they believed she would come back before the reported incidents occurred. Since there are many questions that need answering, police are still in the process of corroborating the details of the woman's story.

Although many people, particularly in the media, have probably convicted the man in their own minds of the sexual abuse crimes even before he even makes it to trial. Since the media has reported so much about the story, primarily from the perspective of evidence gathered by police to gain conviction, it may be hard to ensure the jury is impartial. As such, the man and his mother will have to be sure that he is treated fairly at all stages of criminal proceedings.

If a as the case moves forward, the prosecutor will have to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that every element of a crime has been proved in order to get a conviction for that crime.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Washington Park man and his mother are charged in sex case," Denise Hollinshed, Aug. 26, 2012

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