Crime

Tonya Craft Trial Update: How 'Normal' Becomes 'Very Suspicious'

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Yesterday a defense expert effectively rebutted testimony about physical evidence against Tonya Craft, the Chickamauga, Georgia, kindergarten teacher accused of sexually abusing three girls. Based on photographs taken during examinations of the girls, who supposedly were molested during sleepovers at Craft's house, Nancy Fajman, an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University, said she saw no evidence of abuse. This is a summary of her testimony from WRCB, the NBC affiliate in Chattanooga:

State expert said two medical exams were "suspicious." Dr Fajman says results of child sex exams are either "normal" or "abnormal."…

Exam state nurse found "very suspicious" is not suspicious at all to Dr. Fajman. She says it's a "normal" result.

In other words, according to Fajman, the state's witness not only was mistaken; she did not even use the right terminology. WRCB's report says Fajman "comes across as authoritative, knowledgeable about child sex exams," and the prosecution did nothing to undermine her credibility during cross-examination. Her testimony seems devastating to the prosecution's case, especially since one of the alleged victims claimed Craft had put her entire hand inside her, which presumably would have left a detectable injury.

Without physical evidence, the prosecution's case relies on the spotty, inconsistent, self-contradictory, and at times highly implausible testimony of three little girls who show signs of being coaxed or pressured to falsely recall abuse. (Go here for my previous posts on the subject.) Testimony during the last week provided further evidence along those lines. This is from the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

The detective [Tim Deal, the lead investigator] also testified that he conducted both interviews with the second alleged child victim.

In the first interview on May 27, 2008, the child didn't report any incident involving Ms. Craft touching her inappropriately. It was only when the detective interviewed her a second time in April 2009 that she told him she had been molested by Ms. Craft.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor after the videos were shown, the detective said that sometimes children don't reveal sexual abuse right away.

Here is WRCB's description of a videotaped interview with the first child witness, the actress who played an abused girl in a movie (emphasis added):

Girl says Tonya Craft used her fist to hit her for being "bad." First we've heard of Craft hitting girl…

Girl says Tonya Craft would "always" hit her. When asked if it ever left a mark she said, "ummmm, I don't remember."…

This taped interview was 11 months after the first interview with same girl. Girl disclosing a lot that wasn't in 1st interview.

The prosecution argues that gradual recovery of traumatic memories is common. But the contradictions and evolving accounts are also what you would expect if memories of abuse were false, planted in the children's minds by suggestive questioning, rumors, and/or coaching, as in the McMartin Preschool case and other molestation panics.

The defense is making the case that the accusations against Craft were instigated by adults with grudges, and there is a tangle of divorces, affairs, and soured relationships in Craft's social circle that I will not attempt to unravel. But according to testimony on Monday from Craft's ex-husband, the allegation that Craft abused her own daughter first came from his new wife, who herself had been reported to child services by Craft for regularly showering with the girl (which she admitted doing). During a videotaped interview, the girl said, "My mom [the stepmother, apparently] told me which is which and where they touched me."

The defense has presented witnesses who know Craft well and say they never saw signs of abuse, believe she is innocent, and would continue to trust her with their children. One woman says the mother of the child actress pressured her to report that her own daughter was abused and that police pressed for a second interview after her daughter failed to report abuse during the first one. Other parents who saw no indication their children were abused said police had no interest in talking to them.

The prosecution, meanwhile, is trying to portray Craft as a heavy-drinking, bisexual slut through insinuating questions and hearsay about such irrelevant points as her alleged interest in girl-on-girl porn. I'm hoping the jury sees through this misdirection, because now that the prosecution has rested its case there is no question that it failed to meet its burden of proof.

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  1. Burn the witch! Burn the witch! er… Molestor! Burn the molestor!

    1. shut up your daughter is probably one of the girls who is lying about mrs. craft these girls are just pathetic people in the world she can’t help it they are jealous and want to bring her down please get a life that doesn’t consist of ruining someone else’s! STOP THE LYING GIRLS IN AMERICA WHO MAKE UP RAPE STORIES!!!!!

      reply to this

  2. Wait, a defense expert witness contradicted a prosecution expert witness!

    Why, it’s almost as if you could get an expert witness to give whatever story you wanted!

    I’m not saying that Craft is guilty or innocent, but c’mon, this is hardly as dispositive as getting the Post Office to deliver all the children’s letters to your client.

    1. Since the United States Government declares this woman to be Santa Claus, this Court will not dispute it. Case dismissed!

    2. Wait, a defense expert witness contradicted a prosecution expert witness!

      Nomenclature is medicine is extremely important Abdul, and is a measure of professional competence.

      “Normal” is an acceptable medical term regarding the result of an unremarkable examination. As per the FA, since both parties are using photographs to suggest abuse has occurred and Dr Fajman, as an associate professor of pediatrics, would be more qualified to discern apparent or even latent injury left by:

      especially since one of the alleged victims claimed Craft had put her entire hand inside her, which presumably would have left a detectable injury.

      In my OB/GYN pediatrics rotation during residency, photographic media used to instruct med students and residents on the expected “normal” results of a physical exam of a female pre-school aged child, espcially DX that would have differentiated from physical S/S resulting from abnormalities present. That Dr. Fajman used proper nomenclature regarding her testimony and the State’s Expertw would presumbly not use the improper term of “suspicious” is very relevant to the veracity of her testimony. A examiner would use use an ICD9/CPT DX to describe any and all findings resultant from vaginal penetration, specifically latent vaginal tearing, using accepted medical nomenclature, which most certainly does not include “suspicious”.

      I’m sure who is more useless as far as the State’s Witnesses go: the examining nurse or state’s medical examiner.

      1. “I’m not sure…” PREVIEW FAIL!

        1. I hope you take more care with your patients than your posts on Internet message boards. Otherwise you’ll end up stacking the corpses like cord wood.

          1. I do. Thank you for your concern, Capt. 🙂

      2. Groovus,

        I’ll defer to your expertise on things medical. But you know that people in medicine who have any exposure to litigation hate medical experts. And you know why they do.

        It’s because they take use their expertise to make good docs who had tough cases look stupid.

        I’ve evaluated lots of expert testimony. The only conclusion I could draw is that most of them spun facts the way they were told by the pay master.

        1. It’s because they take use their expertise to make good docs who had tough cases look stupid.

          It’s the nature of adversarial system Abdul, and you know it. If a doc is that damn good and is willing to testify representing the state (and I am convinced that medical examiners are more interested in proving the prosecution’s case than the search for truth) or be reimbursed by the defense for expert testimony, then he or she should be prepared for the shellacking that will occur in court during cross-examination. On either side of the case. A person’s life has been effectively destroyed here, regardless of verdict at this point. I would prefer for her not to spend any time in jail on the dubious testimony of three kids and poor medical testimony overseen by a hostile judge who should have recused himself from this case.

          If you are referring to malpractice cases, yes, it is risk we take and another matter for debate entirely.

          The only conclusion I could draw is that most of them spun facts the way they were told by the pay master.

          This is no different than the attorneys who advocate, for pay, for their respective clients. I do agree however with you regarding “hired gun” forensic specialists; in your evaluations, how reliable have you found circumstantial forensic testimony?

  3. Other parents who saw no indication their children were abused said police had no interest in talking to them.

    Really? Police not interested in talking to non-witnesses? Jeez.

    1. Ummm…they are witnesses. Null results are just as scientifically valid is postive results.

      1. Why didn’t they interview me when OJ didn’t slash my throat then?

        fuckin cops.

        1. When they say other parents, they mean other parents who had kids around Craft. What’s your connection to OJ?

        2. If OJ was on trial for killing 3 ex-wives and you were one of his additional ex-wives, I damn well think the police she be talking to you. There might have been a reason you were different from them or they might discover that the poison hadnt reached lethal doses for you yet.

          1. I’m sure Abdul was none of that.

        3. I think it would be relavent to talk to ex-girlfriends and other female acquaintences to find out if they ever saw a violent side to him, don’t you?

          1. Strange how Abdul lost interest in defending this point without conceding it…

  4. Oh Abdul, it’s so hard for you to resist that deference to authority, isn’t it. Does it make you feel warm inside, or are you secretly ashamed? Do you ask the transvestite hookers to burn your genitals with cigarette butts?

    1. Epi, all Im saying is that this account of the Craft trial is pretty weak tea.

      Expert witnesses contradicting each other? Police not interviewing people simply because they didn’t witness anything?

      For what it’s worth, I find the recovered memory idea a bit sketchy. Sure, it makes for a great Gilligan’s Island episode, but it hardly happens in the real world.

      1. Since the presumption is towards innocence, a greater burden rests on the state. So in what you just said, you’re describing a case where the prosecution certainly isn’t proving it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore your “weak tea” is actually all the defense needs.

        So spare me your pretend non-deference to the state.

        1. Police = Federal bailout of the donut industry.

        2. So what, does your rebellious attitude still get you laid at coprophagia conventions? Keep sticking it to the man!

          1. I’ll bet your attitude makes you the most popular girl at the FOP ball.

      2. Abdul, I must say that you have demonostrated a propensity to suck the scrotum of the state. Epi’s got a point. It is not a flattering attribute.

        It, the aforesaid propensity to suck the scrotum of the state, is beneath you. You are better than that, particularly in view of your tendency to offer intellectually flaccid defenses to your authoritarian positions.

        Here, if one is intellectually honest and thorough and comprehensive, one must acknowledge that there is no absolute, falsifiable hypothesis that “gradual recovery of traumatic memories is common.” You tend not to include such material in your posts thereby killing your credibility.

        AN intellectually honest observer would note that in any trial where the prosecution confers with child witnesses, ex parte, is, in and of itself, a practice that taints the reliability and credibility of the child witnesses and the process itself. You tend not to mention such things in your posts.

        1. You have a history of holocaust denial. Get fucked.

          1. Great, reasoned response.

      3. I agree, this is some pretty weak tea… the jury should not convict her. Further, the state should have it’s feet held to the fire for bringing such weak tea to be served at a heavy expense to taxpayers.

    2. “”Do you ask the transvestite hookers to burn your genitals with cigarette butts?””

      He has to pay extra for that.

  5. heavy-drinking, bisexual slut

    That’s all I needed to read. FREE THE BISEXUAL SLUT

  6. Without physical evidence, the prosecution’s case relies on the spotty, inconsistent, self-contradictory, and at times highly implausible testimony

    And unfortunately, anyone who’s followed the history of child molestation witch hunt trials going back at least through the eighties, that’s more than enough to utterly ruin someone’s life.

    1. And unfortunately, anyone who’s followed the history of child molestation witch hunt trials going back at least through the eighties, that’s more than enough to utterly ruin someone’s life.

      How is that, considering that the above does not even meet the preponderance of evidence standard?

      1. Cause even if you get off, a large chunk of the community will continue to believe you are guilty, that’s why. Good luck being a teacher with this in your background.

        1. Hey, if you hadn’t done anything wrong they’d never have accused you.

          And all those people giving favorable testimony are children-hating deviants.

      2. Do you think her former employer is going to hire her back? There is a certain amount of the population that will presume nancy grace-style that if the state brought charges, there MUST be something there even if she is found not-guilty.

        1. There is a certain amount of the population that will presume nancy grace-style that if the state brought charges, there MUST be something there even if she is found not-guilty.

          Where did that kind of mentality come from?

          And how do we abolish it?

          1. False accusations sell advertisements, claiming you saw through it all along after it is revealed to be false years later sells almost as many.

            Ad supported journalism is the only way we’ve found to have a free press thus you don’t stop it till people decide they want the truth more than the sensational.

  7. “The prosecution argues that gradual recovery of traumatic memories is common.”

    …an argument completely unsupported by research.

  8. FREE THE BISEXUAL SLUT

    She is free. She’s a bisexual slut.

    FREE DRINKS FOR THE SLUT

    1. If true, she could get work in the porn industry with ex-teacher Tiffany Shepherd. Among fired Florida teachers, she comes out morally on top for not getting canned because of sleeping with her students.

      I don’t know what this says about our teachers in general.

      1. Among fired Florida teachers, she comes out morally on top

        Are you a moral top or a moral bottom?

        1. Did I say morally? I may have meant orally.

  9. “Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor after the videos were shown, the detective [Deal] said that sometimes children don’t reveal sexual abuse right away.”

    Same man who told you would never forget “a finger up your rectum”.

  10. Where is that RevolutionMuslim.Com guy? Why is this injustice not worth issuing threats of terrorist violence, but cartoons are?

    1. You really don’t inhabit the same world we do, do you.

      1. You really don’t inhabit the same world we do, do you.

        I am noting the irony of people wanting to use violence over trivial issues, but not real issues.

        1. Why would assume revolutionmuslim.com guy thinks this is a real issue? And why would you think his absence actually means something?

  11. “”is trying to portray Craft as a heavy-drinking, bisexual slut “”

    I prefer female bisexual sluts to be heavy drinkers.

  12. I have a feeling the whole thing is kinda weird.

    Fing
    http://www.post-anonymously.us.tc

  13. Well atleast Craft’s getting a fair hearing, even if this shouldn’t have even gone to trial. I still pity the debt load she’ll have and mental toll this will have taken on her.

    And I continue to fear the power a child has to destroy an adult’s life.

    1. Given the stories that have come from this, especially those regarding the judge’s conduct, I’m not sure how one could call these proceedings “fair”

    2. The solution to your fear is not permitting any prosecution of such adults where the evidence consists of (a) only the testimony of the alleged victim or (b) equivocal, at best, physical evidence, and the testimony of the alleged victim.

      1. The solution to your fear is not permitting any prosecution of such adults where the evidence consists of (a) only the testimony of the alleged victim or (b) equivocal, at best, physical evidence, and the testimony of the alleged victim.

        I would second that.

        Children’s testimony has been shown to be insufficient in themselves.

        1. I wouldn’t throw out all children’s testimony. Just treat it to the same standard as an adults.

          If it seems to be coached or inconsistent, it’s not credible.

    3. This is one case where I am rooting for a civil suit afterwards.

  14. Come on, everyone knows that homosexuals are by definition child-molesters. Just look at the gays! Need I say more???

    1. Cut them some slack. They don’t have souls you know.

  15. What is this “burden of proof” of which you speak?

    1. The children! They never lie! That’s all the proof I need…

      1. Ugh Sean Penn. Couldnt they have found someone without insane political views to make this? I know its a logical fallacy (whats the opposite of appeal to authority?) but still, ugh.

        1. Agumentum ad ignorum

      2. she is innocent. girls are pathetic losw life’s i know a certain girl in particular who made allegations on someone and knew they were not true we tried and tried to get her to admit the truth but you shouldn’t feel sorry for these lying girls!

  16. One of the things that bothers me the most about this case is the way in which the prosecution is portraying bisexual and gay members of the community. They are clearly strumming the old strings of homophobia, and the introduction of “evidence” that she may have at one time in her life engaged in a non-consentual sexual encounter with another woman as a “prior bad act” should bring the ACLU knocking on the county DA’s door. The ACLU is too focused on a teenage lesbian’s prom to care about when the GLBT community is REALLY under threat.

  17. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALKO….er, I mean

    SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!

    And also, Abdul = Choney

  18. You guys are all acting like there’s no reason to even have a trial. I mean, look at all the kids who didn’t make molestation accusations!

    I’ll note that when there were lots of polanski threads, most people thought he was guilty based on the sworn testimony of just one–not three– complaining witness who was trying to get into show biz. Anyone putting a “free Polanski” sticker on their car now?

    You accuse me of deferring to authority, but you have no skepticism of what Sullum’s posting?

    Sullum may well be right, but it won’t be because the Defense found an expert witness who can say what they want.

    1. Abdul|4.28.10 @ 8:42PM|#
      “…but you have no skepticism of what Sullum’s posting?…”

      Unless Sullum is posting mistakes of fact rather than opinion, it’s not Sullum’s postings that raise my ire.
      The facts alone are sufficient.

    2. Sullum has earned my respect. OTOH, I just assume the opposite of all Doherty and Balko posts.

    3. Polanski never denied having sex with the girl he plied with booze and drugs and had a known history , by his own admission, of seducing underage girls (Kinsky anyone?); he also made a deal and fled when it became apparent he would be facing a stiffer (no pun intended) penalty for his crime.

      1. Why do you think he pled guilty in the first place? To satisfy his conscience?

        He was going to be prosecuted, and that was (obviously) before he fled the country, so that is not a valid justification for the prosecution. And if you think a prior history of bad activity is justification for prosecution, then Craft falls under that category too.

        So if you take the ridiculous position that child molestation charges should never be brought absent a confession, the testimony of an adult (as if that’s ever going to be available!), or physical evidence, then you have to admit that the threatened prosecution of Polanski was unjust.

    4. I thought he was guilty based on his guilty plea.

      The fact they found his semen in her underwear helped, too.

      1. How did they know it was his? DNA testing was nonexistent at that time.

        1. They dont, but its still corroborating physical evidence.

        2. Thye didn’t have DNA testing, but they did have tests that could determine the blood type of the man it came from. IIRC, they also had the nude photos he had taken of the girl.

  19. “My mom [the stepmother, apparently] told me which is which and where they touched me.”

    Isn’t this clear and convincing evidence of coached testimony? In ordinary (read non-sexual) criminal cases that testimony never gets in, because it’s obviously hearsay. You cannot testify that you are a victim of a crime when your knowledge of it comes from somebody else. Why hasn’t this case been thrown out already?

  20. who herself had been reported to child services by Craft for regularly showering with the girl

    I’m amazed nobody has remarked on this. What. The. Fuck. Showering together is now a form of sexual abuse?

    Someone tell the swimming pool police that same-sex showering with children is sexual abuse, because man, I hated having to share those public locker-room showers with those old ladies.

    1. You probably were not getting touched and rubbed by those old ladies in the public shower.

      In itself, showering with a young child (even of the opposite sex) is obviously not child abuse, but there may be details of what Craft alleged occurred during those showers that we don’t know about.

      1. True, but I don’t see anything particularly wrong with a parent finding the most convenient way to bathe a child to be to shower with them.

        This is starting to sound like a custody dispute got out of hand. With false accusations of child abuse by both sides. Craft maybe the first to go there.

        1. The step-mom admitted to shaving her pubic hair while in the shower with the young girl and then providing a safety razor (blade removed) to the girl for her to pretend to shave as well.

          The step-mom also admitted that a physician and child services told her to stop this behavior (i.e. it’s not normal according to them).

          1. Oh, I didn’t know the details. I wasn’t aware that physicians and child services have a veto (apart from the relevant laws, of course) over what one teaches one’s child to do.

          2. Well, I guess somebody’s going to show up and take my toddler sons away from me, now.

            My boys tell me when I missed a spot on my leg.

            1. You show your genitals to your todler sons and explain that you need to shave there? (this is what happened in this case)

  21. “I’m hoping the jury sees through this misdirection, because now that the prosecution has rested its case there is no question that it failed to meet its burden of proof.”

    Her fate rests in the hands of 12 idiots. One has to hope there at least one heavy-drinking, bisexual slut on the panel to hang the jury.

  22. regardless, she is doomed

  23. shut up your daughter is probably one of the girls who is lying about mrs. craft these girls are just pathetic people in the world she can’t help it they are jealous and want to bring her down please get a life that doesn’t consist of ruining someone else’s! STOP THE LYING GIRLS IN AMERICA WHO MAKE UP RAPE STORIES!!!!!

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