A court case in Mesa has sparked a lot of controversy, where a man and the mother of a 3 year-year-old girl are being charged with multiple felonies after the girl was was found duct-taped and covered in feces inside of a closet, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Francisco Rios-Covarrubias and the mother in this case of child neglect and abuse face multiple charges, including dangerous crimes against a child, kidnapping, child abuse and sexual conduct with a minor.
In a news conference last month, County Attorney Bill Montgomery told the Arizona Republic: “In contrast and comparison to the kindness I received growing up … with the treatment of some children in our community, it is absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s why I am so committed to wanting to fight for the most vulnerable and defenseless in our community who should receive that same kind of care and compassion instead of what they all too often are faced with.”
In sensitive cases like these, it can be difficult to stay faithful to the judicial system. After all, should someone accused of doing something so depraved to a child be given due process? For criminal law attorneys on both sides of the aisle (prosecution and defense), a tragedy of this magnitude can cause tremendous stress.
First and foremost, attorneys understand that each case must be treated with the same procedural safeguards because the Constitution requires them. From the most minor traffic offenses to the most severe forms of child abuse and neglect, every case demands due process. Unfortunately, that process can be slow and methodical, especially to the watchful public eye that demands swift retributive justice. Whether or not the public approves, the case will not likely be resolved for several months or more.
Additionally, although cases like this one may appear factually indisputable, sometimes the most obvious conclusions break down under scrutiny. One needs to consider the warnings of “Making a Murderer” to understand that costly mistakes can occur in the legal system. It takes time for the parties to sort through the evidence and attempt to piece together what happened because even the most public of events will have subtle differences in each witness’s account. Avoiding sending someone to prison for a crime they did not commit is the core purpose of the jury trial system in Maricopa County.
Of course, not every mistake results in prejudicial harm to the accused – sometimes, the state may fail to secure a conviction against a person who is dangerous and should face consequences for their actions. Both sides – prosecution and defense – do not want to show up in the news or on a documentary for failing to do their jobs well. This tension can sometimes result in unreasonable plea offers or unnecessary trials, but the pressure of the public eye helps to ensure that adequate care is taken – especially in high-profile cases. As Phoenix area attorneys often say, no one wants to end up in the New Times for screwing up.
There are many more reasons that tragedies like the one involving the girl in Mesa are not as “open and shut” as the public would like. Even after the case moves through the pretrial procedure and discovery processes, putting on a trial in a case with substantial media coverage requires tremendous planning and care. Sometimes, when a case is highly publicized, it may not even be possible to hold the trial in the county where the crime occurred, leading to further scheduling delays and potential mistrials. In the end, the judicial system is designed to protect the rights of the accused because, as jurists have argued for centuries, it is better that some guilty men go free than for an innocent man to suffer a false conviction.