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Tonya Craft: Teacher on Trial (Day Two)

Two WRCB live trucks in place for trial coverage. Two WRCB live trucks in place for trial coverage.
Tonya Craft leaves court Tuesday holding husband's hand. Tonya Craft leaves court Tuesday holding husband's hand.
Tonya Craft leaves court Tuesday holding husband's hand. Tonya Craft leaves court Tuesday holding husband's hand.

TUESDAY, APRIL 13

Follow WRCB's Melydia Clewell and Callie Starnes on Twitter. Get updates from the field and courthouse at Facebook.com/WRCBtv. Legal analysis on-air from WRCB Legal Analyst McCracken Poston.

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Update 6:05 p.m.

Prosecutor Len Gregor to the jury: "The bottom-line is that you will find the truth of the three charges and that those crimes are against three small children. It is not Tonya Craft's truth. It is the truth of one who is selfish and self-interested...Just like the children, the mothers, the parents, the investigators and the prosecutors, you may not want to believe that woman, that mother, that teacher could do such a thing. You will get to see all the evidence, as sad and distasteful as it is. You'll see the evidence of how one of the girls wrote the words 'sex' and 'kiss' on the sidewalk. ‘Just words I learned from Ms. Craft,'...Later she told her parents that 'Ms. Craft had touched my privates.' This is not something a young mother wants to hear...This is a case that just doesn't end with the statements of these three little girls. Medical exams were performed, as are done in cases such as this. Not by a school nurse, but a sexual assault nurse. One of the girls had an exam performed that did not show sexual abuse, but the other two show possible abuse, while one discloses the greatest number of acts. Her exam is very very suspicious for sexual abuse. Lastly you will see graphic pictures of the exams...Later one of the children had a melt-down at school, and you will hear from teachers that observed that melt-down. At this time she gives more testimony that is even more consistent."


Defense attorney Dr. Demosthenes Landros went next. A portion of his statements to the jury:

"Now you will hear the rest of the story. What actually happened? When you are put in the position of Tonya Craft the only thing you can do is to talk about and investigate what happened in every minute of your life? Do you look to friends, your calendar, your checkbook? How do you account for this? We will show that this did not happen; it could not have happened. They did not tell you the rest of the story. One of the victim's moms said, in front of her daughter, that Tonya was a (expletive), a (expletive) and a drunk...You didn't hear that one of the parents questioned her daughter over, and over, and over again, but there was no mention of Tonya Craft. In 2007, Tonya's daughter had a birthday party and the victims attended. They got mad as little girls do. This was all reported to another parent and all of a sudden Tonya is dirt. An interviewer was called for and they interviewed the girls with nothing being admitted. It was still not enough to get an indictment. So they bring in another parent. We have boxes of science to show you as evidence...We will put on an expert from Vanderbilt to tell you how this sort of thing happens when children are kept away from their mom or dad. She is innocent of every charge until proven guilty. Who is Ms. Tonya, What is Ms. Tonya? That is what you must determine. The evidence will show that after Tonya completed her Master's degree she went on a mission trip to Cambodia. She was responsible for her kids. The evidence will show that she did not do these things. She was not capable of doing these things. How do you defend yourself against such things when they are so horrible? We will bring you all of the children that were there and all of the parents that were there...not just the ones whom the prosecution thinks are beneficial to their case, but the ones who were told ‘we don't need you.'"

Update 4:03 p.m.

The judge has recessed the trial for the day following opening statements. The courtroom will be cleared for the first three witnesses tomorrow morning, presumably the alleged victims who are victims. The judge will not allow cameras in the courtroom for testimony by minors. His March 9th ruling does not ban the media from having representatives present without cameras.

Update 3:50 p.m.

The judge calls for a 10 minute recess. Jury is asked to go to jury room. Looks like they will take a witness after the break.

Update 3:39 p.m.

The defense says prior to being charged, Tonya Craft reported that one of the alleged victims was possibly abused by someone else.

Defense also says victims were coached and that evidence will show story changed once investigators began asking more questions.

At one point later in the statements, the prosecution objected to say the defense is arguing. Judge: "Let's stick to what the evidence will show."

Update 3:11 p.m.

The state went first in opening statements. One of the prosecutors opened with graphic details involving an alleged victim. Prosecution shows jury where three girls will sit to testify about sexual abuse.

"You will see what happens to them emotionally," he said.

The prosecution says the alleged victims came to authorities at different times to complain about Tonya Craft.

When the defense began opening statements one of the attorneys was very animated with hand gestures, yelling, moving around.

He said, "We believe the evidence will show it didn't happen the way they said. It doesn't make sense."

Update 2:25 p.m.

Opening statements begin with prosecution side. Judge gives orders to the media and other members in the courtroom that no one is to leave/return during the opening statements. WRCB has multiple crews on site to make sure we do not miss anything.

Update 2:13 p.m.

Attorneys just wrapped up motion hearing with judge. Jurors not back in courtroom yet. Opening statements to begin soon.

Update 1:59 p.m.

Attorney motions were scheduled to begin at 1:15 p.m. in advance of the schedule 2:00 p.m. opening statements. WRCB team of reporters in place. Updates as they have access to their cell phones for texts.

Update 12:38 p.m.

Judge Brian House wants to make it clear that the media was not banned from jury selection yesterday for editorial reasons. He says he banned the media for space issues because of a large jury pool. His March 9th Order banned cameras from jury selection all along. However, cameraless media expected to observe the public process.

Update 11:39 a.m.

Judge takes break and sets opening statements to begin at 2:00 p.m. Judge House told jurors that he is "specifically instructing you not to read up on this trial or watch television." In open court, the judge told jurors that they are to meet each morning at a location to then be bussed to the courthouse. They will not be sequestered overnight but will be sequestered during breaks and meals. The Judge's order on Rule 22 (cameras in courtroom request) instructs the media to not capture video of the jurors.

Update 11:34 a.m.

The jury is made up of seven men and five women. There are four alternates, including three men and one woman.

Update 11:24 a.m.

Jury has been selected. Judge House asked both sides, "Is this your jury." They both responded, "Yes."

Update 10:38 a.m.

Eight members of media crammed in room size of two coat closets. WRCB's Melydia Clewell and Callie Starnes are sitting on the floor with their laptops keeping you updated.

No cell phones allowed in courthouse. WRCB reporters using Twitter to communicate with Channel 3 Eyewitness Newsroom Tonya Craft trial.

Update 9:54 a.m.

Potential jurors given names of 100 witnesses to identify possible conflicts. No more than half dozen cut from pool.

Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers declines to comment to Channel 3 on security for the trial. Says it might violate gag order issued by Judge House.

Update 9:30 a.m.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News sent an official cameras in the courtroom request, also known as Rule 22 in Georgia. Superior Court Judge Brian House issued his ruling which is included below:

Certain media agencies have requested to televise the above trial. A hearing was held on that request with both sides present.

The Court rules as follows:

The Court will allow a live telecast of the trial. One camera will be allowed in the courtroom so that the jury box and jurors will not be filmed.

Any area used by the media is to be kept in good repair.

The media is to be in place fifteen minutes before any court proceedings begin.

The media satellite trucks are to be parked in a location so as to not disrupt the normal use of the courthouse.

The Court will not allow the use of still cameras, including but not limited to cell phones.

The Court will not allow the voir dire process or jury selection to be filmed as that would chill the communications necessary to make these stages meaningful.

The jurors are not to be filmed entering or leaving the courthouse nor are they to be filmed where they are sequestered.

When other cases are being heard on the same day, no cameras will be allowed.

The Court will not allow any filming, cameras, still photos, or recording devices in the courtroom during any testimony of any victim and/or minor child.

The live telecast camera shall not be situated or utilized in such a manner that any person viewing the image, including but not limited to the camera operator, is able to view, read or distinguish any document, article or image located on or around either counsel table, or being utilized by any attorney, witness or investigator involved in any hearing or trial of this case. This Order shall specifically include but not limited to any documents or computer displays being so utilized.

Any media entity desiring to use cameras must file a Rule 22 request. The Court will allow them to participate only if the proper representative acknowledges that the entity is subject to this Order in writing.

Any violation of this Order will subject the media entity or its employees to the contempt power of this Court.

Update 9:15 a.m.

Judge Brian House's order on Rule 22 Request for Media Coverage was issued on March 9. It outlines the rules for cameras and media in the courtroom. Part of it states, "The Court will not allow the voir dire process or jury selection to be filmed as that would chill the communications necessary to make these stages meaningful."

Judge House decided on Monday when the courtroom became too crowded with prospective jurors to ask almost everyone else, including the media, to leave. Attorneys, Tonya Craft, and close family members were allowed to stay.

Update 9:00 a.m.

Jury selection in the Tonya Craft child molestation trial will resume this morning. The Court has approximately 100 more prospective jurors to question from a pool of approximately 250-300.

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