- Sexual Assault of a Minor
- 32 Years
- Charles Mix, South Dakota
In November of 1993, five-year-old Rosemary Rouse was taken into custody in South Dakota, after complaining that her grandmother, with whom she lived at the Yankton Sioux reservation, was neglecting her. Two months after Rosemary was removed from her grandmother’s care, her foster mother told authorities that she believed the girl had been sexually abused. On January 11, 1994, social workers, officers with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police and FBI agents paid a went to the reservation and removed 11 children from the care of the Rouse family.
Several days after their removal, the young girls were examined by a gynecologist who found no obvious evidence of abuse and referred them to a colleague. The colleague, Dr. Robert Ferrell, stated that he found evidence of abuse but did not take photos during the examinations.
After being separated from their families and interviewed over the course of several months, some of the children stated they had been sexually abused by one or more of their uncles.
Arrest & Trial
In 1994, Desmond and Jesse Rouse, Garfield Feather and Russel Hubbeling were arrested and charged with sexual assault. During the trial, Dr. Robert Ferrell testified that he had witnessed signs of abuse. Unable to provide photographic evidence of his findings, drew pictures at the trial from memory. Ferrell admitted during the trial that none of his findings, taken in isolation, sufficed as evidence of sexual abuse. The judge refused the defense’s request that the children be examined by a specialist.
During the trial, numerous racist statements disparaging of Native Americans were made by the judge, prosecution and court staff. All four men were convicted and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
In October 1996, two of the children, Donovan Rouse and his cousin Thrista, admitted to having lied about the abuse in order to be reunited with their families. All the children who gave evidence went on to retract their statements. In 2014, Joyce Adams, a doctor who specializes in child abuse, wrote a report on Ferrell’s diagnosis, describing his findings as within the span of normal variation.
In 2016, Desmond reached out to IPTX for assistance. While IPTX does not typically take cases outside if Texas, the sentence was in a federal court and, at the time, there was not an innocence organization in South Dakota willing to investigate the case.
With the assistance of IPTX, Desmond was paroled in December of 2020 after spending 24 years in prison. IPTX, in partnership with the Great North Innocence Project, appealed the court’s decision. In 2021, the judge who presided over the case rejected the appeals for Desmond and Jesse Rouse, and Russel Hubbeling. Garfield Feather’s appeal is still pending.
Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.