- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Court of Appeals yesterday threw out a child-abuse conviction of Michael Conway Snowden that was based largely on testimony from a social worker who had interviewed the three young girls who made the abuse accusations against the Montgomery County man.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year, the state’s highest court ruled unanimously that the testimony was not inadmissible under Maryland’s “tender years” law, which was enacted to allow the state to substitute the testimony of health or social workers for testimony of children in some cases.

The court left some questions unanswered, but suggested that statements would be admissible in some instances, said Kathryn Grill Graeff, chief of criminal appeals for the Attorney General’s Office.

The Maryland court said there might be some situations in which children would be so young and so immature they would not be able to understand the nature of statements made to counselors and would not understand that the statements could be admitted as evidence in court. But the court said the three girls who made the accusations against Mr. Snowden did understand their statements could be used against him.

Not having the girls testify denied Mr. Snowden the constitutional right to confront and cross-examine his accusers, the court said.

Mr. Snowden, who denied that he had touched the girls sexually, was convicted of one count of child abuse and six counts of third-degree sexual offense and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years suspended on the abuse count. He received lesser sentences on the other six counts.

The girls — then 10 and 8 — said Mr. Snowden touched them inappropriately. The mother of one of the girls, who also provided child care for the other two, had allowed Mr. Snowden and his girlfriend to live in her house because they were experiencing financial difficulties.

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