Key question in Farrar case: What would jurors do if they'd had all the evidence?
Judging from the emotionally charged online comments in response to this week's cover story, "Beyond Belief," many Westword readers are baffled, outraged and just plain frustrated about the bizarre and tragic case of Charles Farrar -- a man who's still serving a 145-year sentence for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter Sacha, even though she recanted her allegations shortly after he was convicted nine years ago.
There was not one piece of physical evidence to support Sacha's jaw-dropping accusations against Farrar and her own mother -- just her testimony. A year after the verdict, even though she faced possible perjury charges for speaking up, she came forward and admitted that the story wasn't true. So why wasn't that "new evidence," which essentially canceled out the only evidence against Farrar, enough to warrant a new trial?
The answer has to do with the biases built into the Colorado justice system when it comes to evaluating recantations by alleged sexual assault victims. While the system is predisposed to embrace an accuser when little to no corroborative evidence exists (as in Sacha's case), it's also inclined to view recantation as inherently bogus. "Skepticism about recantations is especially applicable in cases of child sexual abuse where recantation is a recurring phenomenon," notes one Colorado Supreme Court decision.
In the Farrar case, Arapahoe County District Judge John Leopold was faced with determining whether Sacha's recantation "would probably result in a judgment of acquittal in a new trial." Leopold concluded it wouldn't, since he found elements of her recantation story to be just as strange and incredible as her testimony at trial, and the prosecution would have great latitude to impeach her: "In all probability, another jury would accept some of [Sacha's] contentions and reject others."
Of course, that's conjecture on the judge's part. Nobody actually asked any members of the jury that convicted Farrar if they would have still voted guilty if they'd been provided the "new evidence" of Sacha's recantation. So we're asking now.
Working from a partial list of juror names and contact information that's nearly a decade old, Westword has been unable to interview any of the Farrar jurors to date. But several probably still live in Arapahoe County and have vivid memories of the trial. We want to hear from you. If you'd known that Sacha would later claim that she'd made it all up, would that have changed your vote? Or is Judge Leopold right -- that it wouldn't have made any difference?
If you don't wish to comment publicly, you can contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's hear what you think.
For more on this state's justice system -- whether evidence is real or recanted -- see our Colorado Crimes archive.