published Monday, April 26th, 2010

Craft trial entering third week

View previous stories and videos

PDF: Craft order

Video: Tonya Craft on Nightline, June 2, 2010

Video: Tonya Craft interview with Good Morning America, June 2, 2010

PDF: Tonya Craft files a $25 million lawsuit against her accusers

PDF: Complaint by Eric Echols

PDF: Complaint by Sandra Lamb

PDF: Orders on Rule 22 Request for Media Coverage

Article: Craft custody attempt hits snag

Article: Pushing state to investigate

Article: Attorney questions Craigslist investigations

Article: Prosecutor introduces claim of Craft affair

Article: Witness: Mother of alleged victim made threat

Article: Craft trial entering third week

Article: Parents of child testify in Craft molestation trial

Article: Lead investigator testifies he didn't interview fathers

Article: Second forensic interviewer testifies in molestation trial

Article: Witness testimony recounted off camera

Article: Mother of alleged molestation victim testifies

Article: Second week of craft trial begins

Article: 2 more children testify in Craft trial

Article: First child testifies in molestation case

Article: Nurse who examined three alleged molestation victims testifies

Article: Juror dismissed in Craft trial

Article: Craft was framed, lawyer says

Article: Large jury pool in Craft trial, no jury selected

Article: Child molestation cases stirring emotions

Article: Refusal to recuse stirs legal debate

PDF: Tonya Craft’s defense attorney’s request for the judge to be dismissed from the case

Article: Attorney for Craft asks judge for recusal

Article: Molestation case leads to emotional divisions

Article: Molestation trial moved to April

PDF: Tonya Craft's indictment

The third week of trial for a former kindergarten teacher charged with child molestation resumes today with the prosecution continuing its case.

In the first two weeks of the trial, the three alleged victims, who are 8 and 9 years old, testified that Tonya Craft had touched them inappropriately.

Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher, is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation.

But during cross-examination, the girls' testimony differed in several ways from what they'd said during videotaped interviews in May and June of 2008, just before Ms. Craft's arrest.

When asked why their answers were different, each girl had a similar statement: "I didn't remember" or "I don't know."

The girls also testified that Ms. Craft had touched them many times, but could cite only one occasion.

In testimony, social workers who interviewed the girls acknowledged that, during the first portion of the interviews, two of the girls did not say specifically that Ms. Craft had touched them inappropriately. Such details didn't come out until the girls left the room for a break, then came back later that same day for another interview session.

One said on the video that Ms. Craft "told me to touch her back." The other was much more graphic in the details of what happened, according to one of the social workers. But the videocamera was not turned on at the time, the social worker testified, and she did not write down what the girl said in her notes.

Before their testimony, each girl, wearing a bright, colorful dress while clutching a stuffed animal, was led into the courtroom by a social worker.

A sexual assault nurse examiner also testified that two of the three girls showed "suspicious" physical signs "that were consistent with sexual abuse."

Asked by one of Ms. Craft's defense attorneys how she knew the children were sexually abused, nurse Sharon Anderson said she did not know for certain that it was sexual abuse. But she said medical exams showed physical abnormalities on two of the girls and her conclusions were based on specific characteristics seen during those exams.

When the mothers of two of the girls testified in the second week of the trial, both said they had been close friends with Ms. Craft before the allegations.

Both admitted they had a falling out with Ms. Craft, citing separate incidents. The mother of the first child said her daughter stopped wanting to go to Ms. Craft's home after a birthday party in January 2008 at which the teacher scolded her.

The second mother testified that the relationship between her and Ms. Craft was strained after an incident between their children. But before the molestation allegations arose in May 2008, the women were speaking again, she said.

During the trial, the defense spent the most time -- about nine hours -- questioning the lead investigator, Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Tim Deal.

Detective Deal testified he decided he had enough evidence to arrest Ms. Craft on June 11, 2008, saying the girls' medical exams weighed heavily in that decision.

In cross-examination, defense attorney Scott King asked the detective why he didn't interview several key people, including two of the girls' fathers and several children who were often at Ms. Craft's home.

The detective gave several reasons, including that the mothers of the alleged victims said the fathers were too upset to be interviewed.

He also mentioned several times during his testimony that he didn't want the investigation to turn into "a witchhunt" by talking with too many people.

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about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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kbp said...

Good article, thanks! Just to clarify a bit...

**Article above: "Asked by one of Ms. Craft's defense attorneys ...Sharon Anderson said she did not know for certain that it was sexual abuse. But she said medical exams showed physical abnormalities on two of the girls and her conclusions were based on specific characteristics seen during those exams.

For any that question what the expert evidence was, the testimony given by both the SANE Nurse and the doctor over her described a condition they classified as not being NORMAL. Of the 3 alleged victims, the strongest testimony given for any of them was as follows;

**Information from previous testimony: "...Her hymen was crescent shaped with the edges thickened and raw with some erosion of tissue. There were no tears or swelling to the hymen that day. Her anal area appeared normal. Her hymen did appear abnormal and consistent with sexual abuse. I saw her results as “very suspicious” for sexual abuse.” (note the "ABNORMAL)

In response to this, the defense attorney questioned the rather inexperienced doctor - the one who had signed off on the Nurse's SANE report as that Nurse must have done to complete that report - about her knowledge of what NORMAL was, to which he pointed out what the medical professionals find as being NORMAL;

"... according to the Journal of Pediatrics, asymmetric, rolled and thickened hymens are found in normal girls. He said 53.8 percent of girls examined in the frog-leg position show rolled and thickened edges and that estrogen amounts can change the shape and condition of the hymen."

That makes 53.8% "abnormal" by the standard used in this case, or "very suspicious" in the eyes of Sharon Anderson.

So the outcome of the testimony by the state's experts is that it was revealed neither are experts on this specific condition. It actually showed the jury that the SANE Nurse has an agenda which interferes with her profession and the doctor is in no way qualified for the position she holds.

April 26, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.
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