Daniel L. Sanders

Clark County, Washington
Date of Alleged Crime:  June 1997

Daniel L. Sanders was convicted of child molestation. In late May and early June of 1997, Sanders stayed with his former girlfriend, Patti Kelley, to spend time with his 14-year-old son, Gabe. Kelley also lived with her three-year-old son, Tyler, who was not Sanders' child. After Kelley accused Sanders of molesting Tyler, Sanders said she was retaliating against him for threatening to call Child Protective Services after Tyler had gotten got into Kelley's stash of methamphetamine. Kelley had told police that Sanders had masturbated and ejaculated in Tyler's face. During a preliminary hearing, Tyler stated, “My mom told me to say these things about [Sanders],” and he would not, or could not, identify Sanders in the courtroom. The judge found Tyler incompetent to testify.

Kelley said she had put Tyler's clothes and the washcloth used to clean him in a bag for police, but no semen was found on any of the items. Tyler was examined the day after the alleged incident, and though Kelley said she had not bathed him, no semen was found on him.

Sanders identified numerous exculpatory witnesses, but his attorney, Thomas Ladouceur, refused to call or interview them. Sanders identified a neighbor who had witnessed his dispute with Kelley. Sanders claimed that Kelley had a history of threatening and making false charges. Sanders identified witnesses who would testify that Kelley, in the course of various disputes with Sanders, had frequently threatened to call the police and falsely report that he had committed crimes or violated his parole. Sanders had no prior conviction for sexual offenses. Sanders identified witnesses who would testify that Kelley had a history of coaching her children and forcing them to lie. Ladouceur, however, did not call or interview any of these witnesses.

Sanders claimed that Kelley had previously fabricated molestation charges against another man. According to Sanders, Kelley had a dispute in 1995 with a man named Grizzly about drug money. Kelley called the police and claimed that Grizzly had molested Gabe. Grizzly was convicted of the charges, but Gabe later told Sanders that Kelley had told him to make up the story. Sanders spoke with Grizzly and asked Ladouceur to interview him, but Ladouceur made no effort to investigate the incident involving Grizzly and Gabe.

Finally, Sanders identified a disinterested third-party witness, Dee Ann Wren, who could establish an alibi. After his dispute with Kelley, Sanders telephoned Wren, whom he had never met before, and discussed the possibility of moving into Wren's house. During the time that Kelley claimed Sanders assaulted Tyler, Wren says that she and Sanders were on the telephone together. Wren had talked to Sanders at length, asking him questions to evaluate whether he would be a good tenant. After Sanders had been arrested, Wren contacted Ladouceur and offered to testify, but Ladouceur did not interview Wren or call her to testify.

Other than Sanders himself, Ladouceur did not seek or call any witnesses. Nor did he seek to introduce Tyler's pretrial statement. The federal Ninth Circuit Court overturned Sanders' conviction in Sept. 2003 based on Ladouceur's failure to investigate and interview potentially exculpatory witnesses.  [2/08]


Reference:  Sanders v. Ryder

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Washington Cases, Child Abuse Cases