On the 11th day at 2 p.m. Monday the prosecution in the Tonya Craft trial rested its case. After hearing from 17 witnesses, the district attorney’s office brought to the stand, by far, its most emotional witness.
The father of one of the young girls recalled how he, himself, had been abused as a young child. For him, he said, that made it all the harder to talk to the young girl about what had allegedly happened.
Breaking into tears he talked about sitting down with his child and asking her to, “Tell daddy what happened; tell daddy why?” At first he said she told him she would get her stuffed animal ‘Lambie,’ the same one she had brought to the witness stand with her.
As he continued to ask her what happened, he said she closed her eyes and said, “Daddy it’s really hard.”
He said he asked her, “Has anyone ever hurt you?” “Miss Tonya did,” she answered, “She touched me on the bottom and my Lucy (her word for privates).”
“I asked her, ‘Baby are you sure?’ and she told me ‘Daddy, I’m sure.’”
With the prosecution resting, Scott King, one of the defense attorneys for Ms. Craft, asked Judge Brian House for a direct verdict of acquittal on several of the aggravated molestation charges, saying some were outside the time line of the indictments and others were outside the jurisdiction of the court as Ms. Craft lived outside of Catoosa County. After arguments by the prosecution, Judge House found all indictments had been presented with sufficient evidence on the 22 counts of child molestation facing the former Chickamauga Elementary School kindergarten teacher.
Holly Kittle, a forensic interviewer from the Fort Oglethorpe Children’s Advocacy Center, on Monday morning took the stand to discuss her interview with the first alleged victim to testify. As with the previous interviewers she was unsure or simply did not know many of the research references regarding child interview techniques as posed to her by the defense.
Defense attorney Dr. Demosthenes Lorandos pointed out that Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt had previously maintained a FaceBook page on which he had posted about the Craft trial. Ms. Kittle had posted a comment concerning Mr. Arnt’s post of “Are the defense team for Ms. Craft really insane or just trying to jack up her bill?” Ms. Kittle had used a radio button to say she “liked” that statement.
Dr. Lorandos asked the witness if he appeared to be insane to her. Ms. Kittle answered ‘no;’ however, she said she was sure about the defense jacking the price up. A copy of that particular FaceBook page was admitted as evidence over the objection of Mr. Arnt. Certain portions had to be redacted.
Other than the defense’s cross-examination, the bulk of the morning was spent watching the video of the interview with Ms. Kittle and the young girl. In the video, made almost one year after the initial interviews, the young victim seemed more matter of fact than in her earlier interviews.
Ms. Kittle, who stated she has a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from the University of Tennessee, home of the world-famous “Body Farm,” was formerly a forensic pathologist for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation - something akin to the CSI television programs, said ADA Arnt.
The witness testified that at the time of the interview in question, April 1, 2009, she had been employed for less than two months.
During the interview the girl recalled one incident of the defendant allegedly touching her inappropriately while in the bathtub and another that allegedly had taken place in the kitchen of the Craft home.
The young child, six years old at the time of the alleged incident, told the interviewer that Ms. Craft had inserted all of her fingers in her ‘privates’ and one finger in her rear. The defense would later question the physical possibilities of this happening. The witness told the defense counsel that she had never considered that possibility.
The defense went through more questions regarding interview techniques and research into the area of interviewing mistakes.
On re-direct Mr. Arnt asked the witness if she was familiar with any cases that show both sides of this argument related to questioning techniques and suggestibility. Ms. Kittle answered that she was, but on re-cross by Dr. Lorandos she could neither name them or give their titles.
Following lunch the jury then heard from the father of one of the young children. He told Mr. Arnt that he recalled his wife calling to tell him to meet her at the CAC, that a report had been filed about their daughter and one of the other alleged victims.
He also said he noticed after a Halloween party that his daughter began to have what he called night terrors and had to be with one of the parents to sleep through the night. He said that previously she had always slept well.
The father recalled that the girl was becoming more and more withdrawn and was spending more time in her room. “I thought it was because of school,” he said.
The dad recounted that he did not want to proceed with prosecuting the case. His reason was that he, himself, had been abused as a child and he knew what it felt like to have no one believe you and for the abuser to deny it ever happened. As he became more and more emotional he said, “I just wanted her to get a good Christian counselor and not have to relive it.”
On cross-examination by defense attorney Clancy Covert, the dad said he would’ve spoken to Ms. Craft himself if possible.
On the issue of a power bill that the defendant allegedly helped falsify for his family, he admitted it was done to help them get their son in the Boynton baseball league.
He told Mr. Covert that he told the Craft investigator that he did not want to be involved with the investigation or trial. He then said that his wife told him he had no choice but to be involved. When the defense attorney asked if he had been told not to talk to Ms. Craft’s attorneys, he replied, “Yes, we received a letter from the DA’s office stating not to talk with anyone without coming through their office."
(You can email Dennis Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter updates are available at NewsieNoogan and Chattanoogancom)