A unanimous Texas Supreme Court ruled today that Michael Arena, sent to prison for an alleged sexual assault that even the victim says never happened – is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.According to the Austin Statesman:
Arena and his brother, John, were each accused as teens of sexually assaulting their young cousin, Stephanie Arena, when the girl was just seven-years-old. Stephanie soon recanted, however, and has been adamant that she was coerced into accusing her cousins at the behest of her mother, who was in a bitter divorce from her husband and had illegally removed Stephanie and her brother from Texas in violation of a court order. You can read the entire back story here.
The court ruled that Arena deserves a new sentencing trial because of false testimony by a psychologist, who during Arena’s 1999 trial labeled him a pedophile who was likely to strike again.RELATED: 'Inmate challenges pedophilia test as junk science.'
The psychologist, Fred Willoughby, based his conclusion on a test that required the then-16-year-old to click through images of swimsuit-clad people of various ages while the computer secretly measured how long he viewed each photo.
According to the unanimous opinion, written by Justice Eva Guzman, Willoughby testified that the test had an 85 percent accuracy rate. In reality, it was 65 percent.
Willoughby also misstated the scientific support for the test, saying independent studies had verified its effectiveness (none had) and quoting a Brigham Young University study as establishing its accuracy. Instead, the study raised serious questions about the test, noting that its ability to distinguish pedophiles from “nonoffenders was not significantly better than chance.”
Had he testified truthfully, Guzman wrote, “the trial court would have excluded Willoughby’s testimony.”