Tonya Craft: Teacher on Trial (Day 16)
MONDAY, MAY 3
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Update 7:05 pm
While WRCB's team stepped out of the courtroom for their live reports at 5:00, our future media partners at the Times Free Press continued inside. Reporter Joy Luck's updates are:
Dr. Aldridge says about 70 to 80% of children disclose the core details of sex abuse during a properly conducted interview.
Dr. Aldridge says she has found when children testify in courtroom they may change story but tend to leave out details not add.
When asked how much Dr. Aldridge gets paid to testify for state or defense, she says "neither one pay very good."
Mr. Arnt asks Dr. Aldridge: "what's a narcissist?"
Mr. Arnt is bring up the famous McMartin preschool trial from the '80s. Keeps asking if the interviews were done wrong.
Mr. Arnt is reading examples of terrible interviews from that famous case. Dr. Aldridge agrees they are bad.
Court wrapped before 7:00 p.m.
Arnt begins w/ a "hypothetical" ? about a social worker ignoring subpoena. Lorandos objects. House overrules. House once again justifies his overruling by saying, "he's on cross".
Arnt and Dr. Aldridge know one another, they have a working relationship. Interesting Arnt hasn't made the connection in court.
Court taking a break. House to jury:"Can you stick around until we get rid of this one?" Court laughs. Cross will wrap today.
Dr. Lorandos weaving a web of hypothetical situations about a hypothetical social worker.
Dr. Aldridge says the hypothetical social worker Dr. Lorandos is describing would need to stop working immediately.
Dr. Lorandos now describing this "hypothetical" social worker as having a financial stake in case.
This "hypothetical" person is mentally ill, messy divorce, in it for the $, and was determined by a judge not fit.
ADA Chris Arnt stands up, slams his book on the table, and approaches the bench w/objection.
Judge House tells Dr. Lorandos not to go there with the "hypothetical" judge finding social worker unfit. Sustained.
Arnt objects again, says he will object to every "hypothetical" from here out.
Dr. Lorandos says he's entitled to ask ?'s. House sustains, and references a prior order.
Dr. Lorandos takes books back to desk, consults defense team, says he's finished with witness. ADA Chris Arnt up on cross.
Dr. Lorandos asking Dr. Aldridge about social worker standards. Dr. Aldridge being asked about depositions taken during Tonya Craft's custody battle.
Lorandos asks Aldridge if social worker is mentally ill should she continue to treat kids. She says no.
Dr. Lorandos now asking what PTSD is.
Dr. Aldridge says there are many things accuser 3 said in an interview that interviewer should have followed up on.
Dr. Aldridge indicates concern over how the interviewer asked questions of the child.
There is no documentation of diagnosis, treatment plan, etc. for accuser 3 and her counseling with Laurie Evans.
Court taking a 10 minute break.
Aldridge being asked about accuser 2's interview with Det. Deal. Dr. Aldridge notes girl didn't appear to be anxious, upset, or traumatized.
There is also no documentation of a diagnosis, goals, or treatment plan for accuser 2's counseling with Laurie Evans.
ADA Arnt objects to another question Lorandos is asking. Lorandos: "Let me withdraw, I don't feel like fighting about that."
When asked why cops left out girl saying mom told her where she was touched - Aldridge said, "It didn't fit with their theory."
Dr Aldridge reviewing interview Det Tim Deal did with girl #2. Said it was confusing for child. Not done properly.
Another objection from Arnt about questioning. Lorandos: "We need one set of rules for everyone."
Arnt objects to Lorandos asking Dr. Aldridge to compare the state nurse with associate's degree to Dr Fajman, Emory expert, for defense.
Lorandos asks Aldridge if it would've been of value to watch child testify. After argument from Arnt, Dr. Aldridge is allowed to answer. She says yes.
Dr. Aldridge being asked about treatment records. Aldridge says there was no documentation of diagnosis, goals, or summaries.
Dr. Lorandos now asking Dr. Aldridge about first interview with accuser 2 in May 2008.
Aldridge says it was a mistake for Det. Deal to tell girl he had talked to her mom prior to interview.
Dr. Aldridge says its concerning that accuser was interviewed multiple times, some after receiving counseling.
Lorandos: Arnt didn't ask Suzie Thorn about girl's off-cam disclosure because a district attorney who asks for perjured testimony gets disbarred.
House says he won't let Dr Lorandos play for the cameras in his courtroom.
Dr. Lorandos goes over and picks up Tonya Craft's hand as he asks if there's evidence the girl is telling the truth.
Dr. Aldridge says never in her career has she suggested to interviewer to take information from accuser without it being taped.
Arnt objects. Lorandos defends his questioning. House accuses Lorandos of "doing this for the media."
Not a seat to be had on Tonya Craft's side of the courtroom. A handful of people on the State's side.
Dr. Aldridge reviewing transcript of interviews with girls: "Once again, the interviewer won't take 'no' for an answer."
Dr Aldridge: "Once again, the child believes the answer they've given is incorrect and they should change it."
Court is back in session.Dr. Aldridge back on the stand. Dr. Aldridge now reviewing June 4, 2008 interview with accuser #1 by Suzie Thorne at Green House in Dalton, GA.
Court breaks until 1:10. After lunch, Lorandos plans to ask Aldridge about the 2nd child interview.
Prior to the break, Dr. Aldridge asked about accuser number one being taken to spa for doing forensic interview could have operated as a bribe.
Aldridge: "After the child is asked again if something else happened, the child is led to believe there is more to tell."
Aldridge goes through list of ?'s that should have been asked
Aldridge says during 1st interview w/accuser 1 Stacey Long should have done things differently
Aldridge calls ?'s Stacey Long asks "leading", "inappropriate", and "suggestive"
Aldridge says usually a child's demeanor changes when disclosing abuse. Says she saw none of that in any interview w/any child
Aldridge says the reason interviewer asks girl multiple times if "there is anything else", is b/c she expects child to give specific answer.
Aldridge says interviewer didn't follow a particular set of guidelines when interviewing accuser 1 for first time.
Aldridge says she went through each interview 3 times.
Dr. Aldridge looked at multiple interviews w/ 3 accusers prior to testifying.
Dr. Aldridge says she received transcripts/dvd's of child interviews/treatment notes on the case.
Dr. Aldridge says a friend suggested she testify. Says Cary King called her. Says she didn't promise an outcome, just the facts.
Dr. Aldridge says interviewers should avoid yes/no ?'s, instead to ask open-ended, multi-option ?'s
Dr. Aldridge says a child is more likely to agree with someone of a higher stature, like a parent.
Dr. Lorandos asks Aldridge about questions asked in video interviews w/accusers. Aldridge calls several "leading", "suggestive"
Dr Aldridge says one of the cardinal rules of interviewing children is that you NEVER introduce new information/thoughts.
Dr. Aldridge says repeating ?'s can make kid think he/she got answer wrong. Lorandos cites accuser 2 saying just that in court.
Dr Aldridge says repetitive questioning makes a child change his or her answer.
Aldridge says it is wrong for interviewer to try to confirm what he/she has been told prior to interview w/child.
Aldridge says an interviewer w/ a preconceived idea about the case can be "dangerous"
Dr. Aldridge says physically disciplining child for touching another child can cause child to "fixate" on the act.
Dr Aldridge says it's best to redirect the behavior when kids are touching each other, not discipline them.
Dr. Aldridge says it is normal for children to touch one another until age 10
Aldridge says parents talking about allegations can contaminate truth. Says child's first report is most accurate.
Dr Aldridge says parents involved in a case repeatedly calling each other tends to contaminate the story of what really happened.
Court back in session. A pan of the crowd shows a lot of new faces in the courtroom
Spectators making their way back into courtroom.
Mid-sentence, Judge tells Aldridge and the rest of courtroom to take a break.
Aldridge says some parents won't remember what questions they ask their child about abuse.
Dr Aldridge telling jurors that children involved in false allegations are just as damaged as children who are actually abused.
Dr Aldridge says the GA Prosecutors Council has accepted interview guidelines for questioning children.
Aldridge says an interviewer's goal should be to be objective and unbiased. Lists literature that can help.
Dr Aldridge Says it's important for forensic intvwrs to be objective & unbiased, protect children & not accuse someone falsely.
Aldridge says it's irresponsible for forensic interviewers not to be up on literature, and can be detrimental.
Dr. Aldridge says it's irresponsible for a forensic interviewer to NOT know the research texts.
Dr. Lorandos asking Dr. Aldridge about books that they both have in their libraries. He has his copies w/him today.
Dr. Aldridge says if a parent believes their child is abused and asked ?'s repeatedly, child can believe he/she was abused.
Dr. Aldridge says we can have a memory of something just by being told about it. Even if it didn't happen.
Dr. Aldridge says she used interviews that she "should have done better" to teach students how to conduct forensic interviews.
Dr Aldridge is talking about the techniques that can contaminate interviews with children who might have been abused.
The court accepts Aldridge as an expert witness without objection from prosecution
Dr. Aldridge says in her career she has testified 185 times for prosecution, 15 times for defense.
Dr. Aldridge says she has been dealing with child sexual abuse for 22 years.
Dr. Lorandos asking Aldridge about process she went through to publish specific articles. No doubt, this woman has done a lot of research.
Dr. Aldridge says she had to prove she knew research & actually fulfilled the requirements for a doctorate in statistics, too
Dr Aldridge's UGA PhD dissertation focused on the pathology of sexual offenders who prey on children.
Dr. Aldridge has had a private practice for 21 years, & has published several works centered around domestic abuse of children.
Public records search of Dr Aldridge shows she is almost always a state witness. Very rare for her to testify for a defendant.
Dr. Aldridge started the GA Center for Children
Dr Aldridge is explaining "forensics" to jurors. Must be objective, unbiased, render impartial opinion after reviewing data.
Arnt interrupts to say state agrees she's expert. Tells jury he's presented at several confernces w/her. Lorandos keeps asking ??
Dr. Aldridge is certified on several levels in forensic interviewing.
Arnt says State does not dispute Dr. Aldridge's credentials. Dr. Lorandos continues w/?'s so jury can hear who she is.
Aldridge has extensive experience/training in interviewing children on video about abuse.
Dr. Aldridge evaluated children with signs of physical & sexual abuse. She went back to school to get a masters in social work.
Dr. Aldridge is a Registered Nurse who practiced in the ER, cardio floor, eventually to psychiatric nursing
Dr. Aldridge is a registered nurse, has a PHD in psychology and social work.
Dr. Nancy Aldridge being sworn in to take the stand. Expert on forensic interviews of children.
Defense calls Dr. Nancy Aldridge from Atlanta.
Lorandos asks judge to keep eye out for personal attacks on him and his witnesses. Judge doesn't respond - just brings in jury.
Dr. Lorandos says he's worried if the judge doesn't "corral" the State - the abuse will continue.
Update 9:00 a.m.
Court begins with defense attorney Dr. Lorandos addressing judge. Says never in 32 year career has he seen "personal attacks" like he's seen from Gregor and Arnt.