Crime

Tonya Craft Trial Update: ‘Wasn’t That a Suggestive Question?’ ‘So What?’

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Last week the trial of Tonya Craft, the Chickamauga, Georgia, kindergarten teacher accused of molesting three girls, featured testimony from her alleged victims. So far this week the jury has heard from the mothers of two alleged victims, the mother of another former student, and two interviewers who talked to the children. According to the mothers, the allegations against Craft arose after a girl wrote "sex," "kissing," and "love" (or possible just "sex" and "kissing"; accounts vary) in chalk on the ground at a pool party. The incident evidently led the mothers to question their children, who told them about the "girlfriend/boyfriend game," which involved kids putting their hands down each other's pants. The initial investigation focused on those reports, and only later did anyone accuse Craft of abuse. How exactly that happened is unclear. Craft's defense attorneys are making the case that her accusers and/or their mothers had pre-existing grudges against her and that suggestive, repetitive questioning of the children elicited false memories of abuse, as in the McMartin Preschool case and other molestation panics.

In earlier posts (here, here, and here), I have noted evidence that supports the latter argument. Here is some more evidence from Monday's testimony by the mother of the first child witness (as summarized by WRCB, the NBC affiliate in Chattanooga):

Witness says daughter spent the night at Tonya Craft's house more than once; her daughter said just once. Witness says daughter was wrong….

Testimony about time line and who did what does not match from this witness and Sherry Wilson [another mother].

Reason contributor William L. Anderson, whose blogging initially drew my attention to this case, notes that the same witness also testified that her daughter, an actress who has appeared in two movies (including one where she played an abused child), never had formal acting lessons. The girl's résumé says otherwise. This may seem like a trivial point, but whichever account is accurate, the contradiction suggests the witness is willing to lie when she thinks it's necessary.

The interviewers who talked to the girls seem unconcerned about asking them leading questions or continuing to ask about abuse when they've repeatedly denied that anything untoward happened. Here is WRCB's description of yesterday's testimony by Suzi Thorne, a forensic interviewer at Green House, a "children's advocacy center" in Dalton, Georgia:

Witness admits she introduced idea "bad touch" in interview. She says she wasn't suggesting something, just trying to get info.

Defense points out witness asked girl same question three times. Says she was clarifying.

Craft's lawyer noted that Thorne asked one of the girls "Did anything else happen?" 16 times during one interview. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "she said that repeating the question helps make the child feel comfortable and share her feelings." Thorne said she failed to videotape or otherwise document the crucial moment when this girl finally said Craft had abused her. The defense therefore sought (unsuccessfully) to exclude her testimony about the accusations.

Stacy Long, the Green House interviewer who testified today, seems similarly blasé about the possibility that she might plant ideas in children's heads:

Witness says children are no more suggestible than adults.

Defense attorney asks witness to cite a study that shows children are no more suggestible than adults. She can't.

Defense attorney asks interviewer if she was asking girls "repeating" questions. Stacy Long says she was "clarifying."

Lorandos [one of Craft's lawyers]: "Wasn't that a suggestive question [you asked the girl]?"

Stacy Long: "So what?!"

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39 responses to “Tonya Craft Trial Update: ‘Wasn’t That a Suggestive Question?’ ‘So What?’

  1. Strange: the trial judge has allegedly prohibited the courtroom audience – except reporters – from possessing writing instruments. I’ve been in a few courtrooms in my life and I can never remember any such restriction. Is there any precedence whatsoever for such a restriction?

    1. Duh.

    2. But does s/he prohibit cell phone cameras?

    3. I was wondering if/when courts were going to wise up to the video pen:

      http://www.videopen.org

  2. What the fuck does any of this have to do with libertaria-fucking-ism?

    1. Other than a desire that people get fair trials and a distaste for the way prosecutors tend to railroad people for political gain, whether or not they actually did anything wrong?

    2. Libertarians are big fans of people who deserve to go to jail going to jail, and people who don’t deserve to go to jail not going to jail.

      1. Isn’t it sad how you have to write “Libertarians”, instead of “Everyone”?

        1. Jage ftw.

        2. +sideways-8

          (and curse the comment software for not allowing me to insert the infinity symbol)

          1. ? Evidently, the preceding character is not English. I guess I can’t argue that, but still…

        3. Isn’t it sad how you have to write “Libertarians”, instead of “Everyone”?

          Yep. Sad. Kind of like the day I found out Liberals weren’t so much for the first amendment. I felt kind of led-on. So now it’s just libertarians.

    3. Max, what does that comment have to do with you being a fucking retard?

    4. You’re so desperate for attention that you’re trolling comment threads about it?

    5. Because libertarians always take the deviant’s side of an argument.

      1. We take SQ’s side of this argument.

    6. how about the state should not be so powerful as to put people in prison with no physical evidence, and ridiculously weak testimony

      that said, Ms. Craft is doomed

      1. she should be doomed she is a child predator, children don’t make up these types of stores. she should get life

        1. “Kids don’t make up these kinds of stories”????? I was that naive once,until my 4 year old started in daycare with a 3yr old that had 17,14,13 and 7 yr old siblings.My how my son picked up stuff I thought I would never hear him say,atleast until he was a teenager!!!!!! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!!!!!!!

  3. Craft’s defense attorneys are making the case that her accusers and/or their mothers had pre-existing grudges against her

    After the travesty of justice that was the Little Rascals day care case in Edenton, Il, I can tell you this: Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned.

    I would never, ever do anything around small children that weren’t my own. I wouldn’t teach, I wouldn’t coach, I wouldn’t chaperone… you piss off the wrong mother, and the next thing you know you’re staring down a life sentence in a pound-you-up-the-ass prison.

    1. And some people are so depraved that they think that sending someone to prison for life because that person pissed them off/is an easy target isn’t depraved. It’s not just parents, it’s prosecutors, cops, medical examiners, you name it.

      1. This may seem like a trivial point, but whichever account is accurate, the contradiction suggests the witness children is willing to lie when she thinks it’s necessary.

      2. And some people are so depraved that they think that sending someone to prison for life because that person pissed them off/is an easy target isn’t depraved. It’s not just parents, it’s prosecutors, cops, medical examiners, you name it.

        I read somewhere that injustice breeds terrorism. This has been pointed out in debates about terrorism in Israel.

        Why has not shit like this incited terrorism, if injustice does in fact breed terrorism?

    2. And if you’re a single guy, you should probably also avoid dating single mothers. It’s too bad because I’m sure it’s hard enough for single mother’s to meet someone, but for a guy it’s just too risky.

    3. i dont believe a mother would ask a child to make up a story like these children are telling no matter how scorned! this abuse will change these girls lives forever, if they even choose to live, as many victims dont!!!!!!!

  4. I feel safer. But not as safe as I would in Brazil.

    Be sure to click data requests. Jesus that’s just fucking scary.

  5. It’s been roughly 400 years since the Salem witchcraft trials.

    Nice to see how far society has evolved. (snark)

  6. Coming from someone who went to McMartin preschool, this is FUCKED UP. I sure as hell hope the interviews with the kids were videotaped, and that the video tapes will be shown to the jury in their entirety…..

    1. Thorne said she failed to videotape or otherwise document the crucial moment when this girl finally said Craft had abused her.

      So if the interviewers aren’t even competently taking notes, I’d guess videotape is out.

      In a just system any such interrogation would be inadmissible, and a good reason to yank the license of the “forensic interviewer” responsible.

  7. as soon as i heard the judge in the case was the accused’s former husband’s divorce attorney I knew she had to be innocent. the only thing this case needs is more victims and more satan, then it would be all over the national news.

    1. husband’s divorce lawyer is the judge, daughter who is now living with ex-husband suddenly remembers abuse, ambitious prosecutors

      that’s the night that the lights went out in georgia…

  8. I think that is a GREAT legal argument, and can’t wait for the Solicitor General to use it in oral argument.

    Justice Kennedy: Your choice of precedent appears to be totally irrelevant to the case at hand.

    Solicitor General: So what?

  9. Defense attorney asks witness to cite a study that shows children are no more suggestible than adults. She can’t.

    This should invalidate her expertise and discredit her testimony.

  10. The defense therefore sought (unsuccessfully) to exclude her testimony about the accusations.

    How this isn’t classic, inadmissable hearsay, and under what exception the judge allowed it, is a mystery to me.

    I suspect it will be equally mysterious to the appeals court.

  11. That court is infamous for allowing hearsay, judges showing bias, and railroading people. Oh I forgot violating first amendment rights as well. “Inadmissable” to that court house means jack. What bothers me is that no one is doing anything about this courts behavior. Many and I mean many cases from the catoosa county court house show this impropriety. I know of one case were the judge and the lawyers from both sides were bought off and this was provided to the FBI who has done nothing. Its a shame that so many have no clue about the problems there. The judge on the craft case is prohibiting reporters from being in the court room during certain parts of the trial. According to Georgia law that is not allowed. Just another example of that court houses disregard for the law.

  12. The entire Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit is corrupt! Like I say sarcastically “what are you gonna do about it?” It’s a shame Tonya Craft can’t get the fair trial she is entitled to under the constitution.

  13. Habeas corpus–just a thought. Crappy fall back position, but there you go.

  14. tell me how to find the article Tonya Crafts friend sent her about children and brainwashing (early in the charges)

    1. welcome to Nazi Germany 2010

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