Inside LADA

September 18, 2019: Ask a Complex Child Abuse Prosecutor

Deputy-in-Charge Pak Kouch is one of three deputy district attorneys assigned to the Complex Child Abuse Section.

What kinds of cases do you prosecute?
Since 2016, the unit has prosecuted more than 40 child murder and physical abuse cases. In these cases, the cause of death or injury stemmed from abusive head trauma or other internal injuries which were not immediately apparent.

What makes these types of cases challenging?
In most cases, there are no eyewitnesses. It comes down to the opinions of experts to determine how the child’s injuries occurred. Those opinions often conflict, with medical examiners and child abuse pediatricians saying it was abuse and defense experts saying it was an accident.

Why is a special section needed?
District Attorney Jackie Lacey created the Complex Child Abuse Section in 2016 to prosecute the most difficult child abuse cases. The deputy district attorneys assigned to the section must respond to a growing number of legal challenges to the medical and scientific evidence presented in child abuse prosecutions. We must understand the medical evidence and dig into medical and scientific research so we can effectively cross-examine defense experts.

What keeps you focused and driven when you prosecute these cases?
The victims. These defenseless children are often victimized by the people who were supposed to care for them. It is our job to give these most vulnerable victims a voice and hold accountable the people who take their young lives.

What should people do if they suspect a child is being abused?
If it’s an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, contact your local law enforcement agency or call the county’s Child Protection Hotline at (800) 540-4000.