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Tonya Craft: Teacher on Trial (Day 17)


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Court wraps for the day. Dr. Bernet walks over to defense team and asks, "was the jury sequestered?"

Dr. Bernet says for him to testify Vanderbilt bills between $360 - $460 an hour. Arnt done w/cross. D-Lo doesn't redirect.

Dr. Bernet says a jury should be more cautious w/ a child witness than an adult witness due to outside influences.  

Before Arnt can bring up the McMartin case, Dr. Bernet brings it up. He seems well versed on the case Arnt used yesterday.

Arnt following a similar line of ?'s he used w/Dr. Aldridge. Just asked Dr. Bernet if he knows the definition of a narcissist.

Arnt turns around to spectators and says, "If anyone has a comment, you can leave" Judge House backs him up.

Dr. Bernet to Arnt: "So you just introduced something that wasn't true?" when asked if Hazzard was wrong in interview. Courtroom laughs.

Arnt asking Dr. Bernet about interview Dr. Hazzard (defense's expert witness) conducted.

Arnt notes Dr. Bernet did not see girls during interviews, b/c Dr. didn't watch tapes just read transcripts.  

Arnt: "To be a child molester you have to have access to children, right?" Dr. Bernet: "That's correct"

Arnt:"If you are exercising poor judgement there's a link?" Bernet: "Certainly molesting children is poor judgement"

Arnt: "Substance and alcohol abuse does have a link to child molestation, does it not?" Dr. Bernet: "I don't know if I would call it a link"

Arnt asking Dr. Bernet a lot of ?'s about what is normal and what isn't. Bernet says "normal" doesn't mean everyone does it.

State asking Dr. Bernet about article he wrote on spanking & sex abuse. Arnt: "Are you saying all corporal punishment is bad?" Bernet: "No"

Dr. Bernet says majority of criminal cases he testifies for he works with the defense. Says 85% defense, 15% state.

Dr. Bernet says over 40 years he's done probably a 1,000 forensic interviews  

Updated 3:41pm

Dr. Bernet says accuser 3's opinion of #TonyaCraft changed drastically over time, he believes it's b/c of therapy sessions w/Laurie Evans. 

Dr. Bernet says interview w/accuser 3 is traumatic on it's own by interviewer pressing for answers as child gets upset

Dr. Bernet says accuser 3 comes to interview w/ "negative stereotype", says "parental involvement" evident by girl saying #TonyaCraft lied. 

Updated 2:25pm

Gregor says D-Lo is "playing to the media", judge takes motion hearing into chambers.  

D-Lo using references psychological treatment records that Laurie Evans entered into evidence during her divorce.  

D-Lo says the state doesn't want the jury to find out the therapist that counseled girls is mentally ill.  

Jury being excused for Judge to take up an issue.

Mic is on witness stand. All we can hear is Dr. Bernet shuffling papers, can't hear conversation at the bench.  

Arnt objects to questioning. He and D-Lo head to the bench. 

Dr. Bernet says he meets w/ trainees once a week for sessions. Says otherwise, they don't know what to do.  

Dr. Bernet says sometimes therapy can make things worse. Says, this case is a good example of what not moving on can do.

Dr. Bernet says accuser 3's opinion of #TonyaCraft changed drastically over time, he believes it's b/c of therapy sessions w/Laurie Evans. 

Dr. Bernet says interview w/accuser 3 is traumatic on it's own by interviewer pressing for answers as child gets upset  

Dr. Bernet says accuser 3 comes to interview w/ "negative stereotype", says "parental involvement" evident by girl saying

D-Lo asks Dr. Bernet what the long term effects of Prozac are, then moves on to interview w/accuser 3.  

Dr. Bernet finds error w/ girl's therapy. Says the way Laurie Evans continued to bring up "fuzzy" memory makes it more real.  

Dr. Bernet says by re-phrasing what girl says in interview Det. Deal is "moving interview along" the way he wants.  

Dr. Bernet says Det. Deal telling accuser 2 she won't get anyone in trouble is "a lie"  

Court back in session. Dr. Bernet continues his analysis of interviews w/accusers.

Updated 1:15pm

Court breaking until 1:15.

Dr. Bernet says there might be value to hear from kids there when accusers were allegedly molested. Many weren't interviewed.

Dr. Bernet says "you can't just rely on what a child says to an interviewer in a 30-45 minute interview"

Dr. Bernet being asked about cards and letters from accusers to #TonyaCraft. Arnt objects, D-Lo: "I'm laying foundation", judge allows.

Dr. Bernet says never in his career has he heard of interviewer not documenting disclosure by a child ... until now.

Dr. Bernet says interviewer should not have "blown off" statement from child about being promised by mom to go to spa.

Dr. Bernet begins sentence w/ "I think" ... Arnt objects, Judge sustains, Dr. Bernet rephrases.

Dr. Bernet says investigator should have asked girl what made her remember when girl came back to allege abuse.

Dr. Bernet girl saying "my momma told me" in interview is an important piece of info Long didn't follow up on.

Dr. Bernet says Stacey Long should not have complimented girl @ end of interview to signify a good job.

Dr. Bernet says ok to ask child if theres anything else once or twice, but any more puts demand on child for different answer.

Update 11:29am

Dr. Bernet: "Interviewer has a style of asking if there is anything else you can tell me", says she's telling girl her answer isn't enough.

Dr. Bernet now looking at accuser 1's first forensic interview w/Stacey Long. Says he has many concerns w/ method.

Update 11:22am

Arnt objects, says D-Lo is leading Dr. Bernet & not asking direct ?'s. D-Lo says he will go a different direction.

Dr Bernet: No matter how many things you add up that don't correlate to being a child still won't have a molestor.

D-Lo counts out-loud 26 things that Dr. Bernet says do not correlate to being a child molester.

Dr Bernet says there's no cause & effect relationship between being a teacher & being a child molestor.

Dr. Bernet: "I don't think there is any connection between being married 2 and 3 times and being a child molester"

D-Lo continues to say, "we've got to get to the bottom of this" when asking if things Tonya Craft has done makes her a child molester.

Dr Bernet says there's no relation between keeping your wedding fotos & being a child molestor.

D-Lo obviously going through list of things State has brought up in court to prove Tonya Craft's "bad" character. Bernet calls many "normal"

Dr Bernet says there's no relation between having pics of your child's bday party & being a child molestor.

Dr. Bernet says mowing the lawn in shorts shorts doesn't make you a child molester

There's no relationship between yelling at your husband for going fishing & being a child molestor.

Dr. Bernet says there is no connection between coming to door in a towel and being a child molester.

There's no correlation between saying bad things about the ex who cheated on you & being a child molestor.

Dr. Benet says being a fitness instructor, getting drunk, going to Vegas, and wearing short shorts don't make you a child molester.

Update 11:10am

Dr Bernet says there's no relationship between wearing a bikini and being a child molestor.

Dr Bernet says there's no relationship between wearing a thong and being a child molestor.

Dr. Bernet says treatment is different for child who was abused, and child with "non-event" memory.

Dr. Bernet says you have to reconstruct chain of events to determine if child's memory is real.

Dr. Bernet says its difficult to tell difference between children who relate a real event, and a "non-event"

D-Lo is asking Dr Bernet if he saw "Witchhunt" the Frontline documentary on big false allegations case.

Dr. Bernet says children who believe abuse happened when it didn't, many times won't let go of false memory.

Dr Bernet says many children induced to believe false allegations of child abuse are never able to be un-brainwashed.

Dr. Bernet says he conducted an experiment w/his son @ 3 yrs old to see how repeated ?'s changed his answer.

Update 10:57am

Like Dr. Aldridge, Dr. Bernet testifies that if a child is asked same ? multiple times child thinks they got it wrong.

D-Lo cites phone records, asks Bernet what could happen if parents talk. Dr. Bernet says it leads to misinformation.

Most people don't conspire to do this, they do it naturally. Share their worry with someone else & the fear spreads.

Dr. Bernet says he doesn't think its a conspiracy, just thinks parents are trying to get to the bottom of it.

Dr Bernet refers to Det Tim Deal's "shoddy investigation."

Dr. Bernet says Det. Tim Deal tried to sniff out parental influence but did led a "shoddy investigation"

Dr Bernet has used the terms "inept interviewers" and "inept therapist" several times.

Dr Bernet says the interviewers & investigators did not take the powerful factor of parental influence into consideration.

Dr. Bernet says he believes normal behavior was processed through "rumors" and "poor interviewing" to result in allegations.

Dr Bernet says it started w/normal kid sexual behavior then parental anxiety, poor interviewing, rumors, bad therapist took over

Update 10:45am

Judge House just told the jury to ignore Dr Bernet's comment about "inept interviewers & inept therapist" ...

Dr Bernet: "inept interviewers, inept therapist" & the girls came to believe TonyaCraft did these things.

Dr Bernet says therapist Laurie Evans probed for months trying to get the girls to discuss sexual abuse.

D-Lo: "You're saying parents wanted to hear girls were abused?" Dr. Bernet: "No, I think they wanted to get to the bottom of it."

Dr Bernet says parents wanted to get to the bottom of it & that influenced the girls to make statements that may/may not be true

Dr Bernet says the interviewers did not investigate the conversations that parents had w/the girls beforehand.

House sustains objection, saying experts can't speculate in this context.

Dr Bernet says the interviews were poorly conducted & all talked to their parents before being interviewed.

Dr. Bernet believes parents started asking asking a lot of ?'s. Arnt objects - speculation. D-Lo: "that's what experts do

Dr Bernet says he believes the parents of the girls involved began talking about their kids' sexual behavior.

Update 10:35am 

Dr. Bernet also says its normal the girls blamed one another for touching. "Kids do that, they scapegoat one another

Dr. Bernet says he gathers girls were involved in child-on-child exploration, what he calls normal

Update 10:32am

D-Lo: Can an interviewer who doesn't know the research do a good job? Dr Bernet: I don't think so. There are too many pitfalls.

Dr. Bernet says when interviewing someone a "free narrative" should be used

Dr Bernet: Leading ?s & repeating ?s are the way child interviews should NOT be done. There are guidelines for doing it right.

Update 10:25am

Court back in session

Update 10:07am

After less than an hour of testimony, court breaks for 10 mins

Dr Bernet did not review his testimony with D-Lo until 7 o'clock last night. Court taking its standard mid morning break.

Dr. Bernet did not take copies interviews on dvd, says he just needed transcripts to form an opinion

Dr Bernet was asked to review interviews of the girls. He wanted transcripts, not DVDs. 95% of what matters is who said what.

Update 10:05am

Dr. Bernet just named victims, interviewers, etc. all by name without looking at papers. He obviously has studied the  case.

Dr. Bernet says he was hired to critique the allegations made by the 3 girls. Says he was sent materials on the case.

Dr. Bernet says he was contacted last year by Scott King about getting involved in Tonya Craft case.

Update 10:0am  

Dr. Bernet says he hasn't testified for D-Lo, but did submit a chapter for a book D-Lo edited

Dr. Bernet being asked about his work on parental alienation. Seems to be the expert on the topic

Dr Bernet wrote the Amer Psych Assoc DSM chapter on Parental Alienation. He compiled all the research "in the world."

Update 09:55

Whatever that was about - it's resolved. D-Lo goes back to asking ?'s of witness

Dr. Lorandos asks Judge House if he, and State, can approach the bench. They're whispering too softly to hear in pool room.

Quiet on the prosecution front. No objections so far as D-Lo continues to question Dr. Bernet

Dr. Bernet also wrote "Children of Divorce" - wrote it w/Judge in TN on how to minimize arguing in divorce

Dr. Bernet wrote article "Paddling is Physical and Sexual Abuse" - argues children should not be spanked in class

Dr Bernet is the go-to guy on how psychiatrists get involved in child custody cases involving maltreatment & alleged abuse.

Benet has done research on forensic interviews relating to the legal system. Probably why he's testified in court so many times.

D-Lo Dr Bernet wrote the chapters on Child Abuse in the "Bible of Psychiatry" -- 3000pp text for the profession.

Dr Bernet "you don't just make up the answer or go on your own experience" you need scientific data to use as a guideline."

Dr Bernet now covering protocol for conducting child custody evaluations. He wrote the protocol for that, too.

Dr Bernet says you can ask enough leading ?? to indoctrinate a child in just one hour. 9 minutes ago via web

Dr. Bernet talking about "indoctrination" - idea that child is lead to believe something by multiple ?'s, and leading ?'s

Update 9:40am

D-Lo is reviewing Dr Bernet's research. This guy wrote the nat'l practice guidelines for interviewing children who may be abused

In his article, Dr. Bernet wrote there are 16 explanations behind a child alleging abuse.

Dr. Bernet has also written articles on how to question kids about abuse, and why a child might make a false allegation.

Dr. Bernet wrote an article on the problems w/acting as a therapist and a forensic evaluator. Says, "you shouldn't wear 2 hats"

Dr Bernet is a member of the Amer Academy of Forensic Psych. Says their work is "very interesting."

Dr Bernet is a Kennedy Center Scholar.

Dr. Bernet has testified as an expert in 14 to 15 states. Primarily murder trials, sex offender trials

Dr Bernet started the Forensic Psych program at Vandy, he teaches Child Psych Fellows, Med students, Law students...

Dr. Bernet has served as Medical Director of Vanderbilt Psychiatry Hospital. He also teaches how to conduct forensic interviews.

You can tell Dr Bernet is an exceptionally smart guy but he has an amazing ability to sound like normal Joe. Very conversational

Dr. Bernet has worked in psychiatry, child psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry.

Bernet graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1967, interned in NY, went through psychiatry training in Boston.

After Harvard Med, Dr Bernet did Internship in Pediatric Neurology, Residency in Adult Psychiatry, fellowshp in Child Psych

Update 9:20am

Lorandos: "Were you nerdy?" Bernet: "I was half nerdy, and half regular"

Dr Bernet went to Holy Cross in MA, summe cum laude, admits he was "half nerdy, half regular." Harvard Med School, '67

Dr. Bernet is a professor at Vanderbilt University.

D-Lo says Dr Bernet has been a witness in upwards of 400 trials.

Dr. Lorandos asking Dr. Bernet about his resume. Lorandos calls him "Doc"

Dr. Bernet called to the stand. Looks serious, smart, and ready to go. He's pulling materials out of his briefcase.

Discussion about what Dr. Lorandos will ask Dr. Bernet in court today. House says they will take it ? by ? and state can object.

Court in session. Dr. Lorandos raising concerns again this morning.

Update 9:00am

Day 17 in the media pool room of TonyaCraft.  Same six souls on board again today. Dr Bernet of Vandy ready to testify for the defense.

A quick Google search of the defense's next witness turns up a plethora of information about his credentials and background

Seems Dr. Bill Bernet will take stand this morning. Another expert witness - he's from Vanderbilt Psych. Hospital in Nashville

Defense team puts Tonya Craft's husband to work everyday. He's pushing cart full of file boxes in again this morning

Update 7:30am 

The defense team for Tonya Craft will continue its side of the case at 9:00 a.m. Check back for updates here all day.


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