Tonya Craft: Teacher on Trial (Day Five)
WARNING: Graphic testimony.
FRIDAY, APRIL 16
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Recap of the day:
Friday centered around two 8-year-old girls who claim Tonya Craft molested them. The details did not always match as the Craft's attorneys tried to poke holes through their stories.
The answers from the girls sometimes differed from their answers in earlier taped interviews with investigators and social counselors. The girls would explain the differences with responses like "I don't remember."
The state prosecutors would question the girls first and spent about 10-12 minutes. The defense attorneys would spend hours on each.
WRCB Legal Analyst McCracken Poston says the state could be trying to avoid making the girls relive these events for a long period of time if indeed they did happen.
The third and final girl to testify against Craft brought the defendant to tears. Jurors could be seen looking in her direction and she sometimes appeared to sob uncontrollably. At one point the prosecution asked that Craft maintain her emotions or ask for a break.
The girl told Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt that Craft "touched" her several times and that she "really doesn't like to think about it."
The 22-count indictment against Craft paints a timeline of 2002-2008 so her defense attorneys spent a lot of time trying to prove that timeline wrong.
Demosthenes Lorandos, Ph.D., JD is Craft's lead attorney. He is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a nationally recognized speaker and author in legal circles. After showing the girl several pictures of herself from different time periods, Lorandos established that the timeline of the claims she was making against Craft was April 2007-May 2008. The girl agreed that was correct.
At one point on the taped interview, a social worker asked the girl how Craft touched her inappropriately. The video shows the girl becoming upset and saying, "I don't want to talk."
In a taped interview with the second girl, she stated that Craft had touched her on the outside of her clothes.
When Lorandos asked her if she was telling the truth on that tape, she said she had "made a mistake."
Court adjourned for the week. Child witness too tired to continue.
Defense asked girl about a counselor she saw in Atlanta and continues to ask if she needs water. He asked her that if things are bothering her, not to get mad at him.
Girl is being asked about what another witness said. Other girl said this witness stuck her hands down other girl's pants. Girl is denying all testimony given by others about her touching other girls. Girl says she doesn't remember touching anyone else.
Court taking 10 minute break.
Little girl just asked defense if it's almost over, "How many more minutes?"
Girl getting real impatient. Wants video to be over, and time estimate of when that will happen. 8 minutes left. Girl in video plays with an i-pod touch she got for not sucking her thumb.
Interviewer returns to video. Makes sure girl knows she's not in trouble, but says she is confused about something.
Girl asked in tape if she ever plays "girlfriend-boyfriend" with her friends. She says maybe sometimes. This is the same game other alleged victim testified to play. Girl in tape says other child tries to play "girlfriend-boyfriend" with her after interviewer asks several times. Girl gets upset in video when interviewer asks her how to play "girlfriend-boyfriend".
Defense attorney about to play video of interview with the girl from June 2008. Girl says she doesn't want to watch, because she knows what she said.
Defense asking questions about how girl was treated before alleged abuse to private areas. She says she doesn't remember time before that.
Defense has tape recording of a message the girl left for Tonya Craft. Prosecution objects to playing it because girl says she doesn't remember leaving it.
The 8-year-old child witness is back on the stand. Defense is working on a timeline and trying to determine when the girl is saying molestation occurred.
The prosecution is finished with questioning after just a few minutes. The defense goes second.
The defense asks little girl if she's looked at Tonya Craft while in courtroom. She says she has seen her face.
As Craft continues to sob, her team is asking the judge to take a break because Craft cannot control her emotions.
The girl testifies that she started calling Tonya Craft by her first name after "bad things" happened. The defense attorney says he wants to know about each time she was abused. She says, "I don't have the best memory."
Indictment says the girl was molested long time. Prosecution says impossible to recount abuse from early on. Defense responds: "then shorten the indictment."
Court back in session. 3rd girl taking the stand against Tonya Craft.
3rd girl being questioned by Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt. The is the first time the jury has heard from him since trial started. Girl has two stuffed animals and a rock with bible verse in her hand. The previous witness let her borrow it.
Witness corrected Arnt: "I already told you that," when he repeated a question. Girl calls her stepmom "momma sausage" because she tucks her in like a sausage at night. The witness appears to be reluctant in answering questions unless she understands it. She says, "What do you mean?"
For first time girl whispers, "she touched me in the private."
Tonya Craft is crying as this third girl testifies.
Defense continues to chip away at inconsistencies in child's testimony. Prosecution objects again, says he's repeating himself. Girl in tape testifies there were other children molested, not just 3 taking the stand. Girl says in video that he mom told he she'd get a toy if she did good in interview. Girl says her mommy promised her a toy because she had to do interview, not in exchange for her saying something in particular.
In first video interview, girl said touching happened outside clothes. In the second taped interview she says touching was inside and outside of her clothes. The girl is very quiet as defense asks very graphic questions about how she was abused. She is nodding her head to answer instead of answering out loud.
The jury is returning to the courtroom. Once seated, the defense resumed questioning of the 8-year-old on the stand. Attorney asked the child if she remembered anything new at lunch.
The court has recessed for lunch. The second alleged victim returns to the stand at 1:15 p.m.
On video, the investigator uses pictures to help child identify parts of the body. Girl says in video that Tonya Craft touched her on outside of her underwear. Investigator asks again.
Investigator asks in video if she was touched with Tonya's mouth. She said only hand. Defense suggesting investigator leads kid in video.
Little girl in video says Tonya Craft told her not to tell, earlier she said Craft threatened her parents.
Investigator leaves room in video. Court watching girl color in video by herself. Defense points out she is not crying.
On video interview, detective told girl she and parents were not in trouble. Girl tells detective that Craft molested her when she went to spend night with Craft's daughter.
The girl then named several girls who were in the house for the sleepover when she was allegedly abused. She says she and Craft's daughter slept in the same room and ate popcorn and chips.
Girl says she was dressed up like cowgirl for a Halloween party. Earlier on stand she testified she went as Cinderella.
Prosecution says defense have team of Tonya Craft supporters positioned by the door where witnesses have to come in. Media and trial participants the only ones allowed in the courtroom because of child witness on the stand. Prosecution says the state's witnesses shouldn't have to sit by Tonya supporters because "it's a big courthouse." Judge says supporters will move to a different floor.
This 8-year-old child witness on the stand seems shy, struggles to find words for answers, hesitates a lot.
Break for technical difficulties in the courtroom as defense tries to play video of the girl's taped interview.
During testimony, the Defense wants to know how little girl knew to call judge, "Your honor." Girl says her mom told her to say that.
Later during testimony, the little girl yawned. And the defense responded, "You know what to do" if you need a break.
The little girl continues to look at pictures and identify children in the pictures.
Girl says she spent the night with Tonya's daughter twice. Little girl says she remembers eating popcorn at Craft's house.
Girl says, "Tonya touched me". Defense: "Where?" Girl: "my privates".
She says Craft told her if she told anyone then Craft would hurt her mommy and daddy. Girl says it made her feel sad. She says she was molested every time she went to Craft's house. Says she slept there twice.
Defense attorney asking to get closer to child as prosecution asks girl questions. Says he can't hear because her voice is so soft.
Girl says she talked to "Mr. Tim" -- Catoosa Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Tim Deal about Tonya Craft
Prosecution just introduced little girl to defense attorney. Prosecution only questioned girl for about 10 minutes.
Court in session. No video allowed, per judge's order. Child witness #2 taking the stand.
Child witness asked to raise right hand to be sworn in, she raises her left. Prosecution asks her to raise her other hand. Child shows off a duck she won for a dodge ball competition. The duck is with her today along with a stuffed lamb. The 8-year-old has a few stuffed animals, two stones (one with a bible verse on it) to help her through the process. Little girl says her mommy was friends with Tonya Craft, but now she's not. Child says she went to Craft's house and played games. She says she doesn't remember what kind of stuff she would do at Tonya's house when she went over to play.