So, if I understand this correctly, if an official state document is damaging to the prosecution, then in Brian House's courtroom it is not allowed to be entered under hearsay rules. However, if a prosecution witness wants to claim that she remembered all this new stuff that is inflammatory and supposedly adds to the prosecution's case, then hearsay is out the window.
Oh, I am sure that the appellate courts are going to be very interested in this dichotomy regarding the rules of evidence in a Georgia court.
[Update II, Wednesday 5:00 PM]: Anyone who was following the testimony today of Laurie Evans found two things: (1) Her deus ex machina comments to prosecutor Chris Arnt regarding the color "yellow," as well as her "I don't remember" (the theme of the prosecution witnesses) and other things certainly smelled of perjury,(2) Her method, or non-method of taking no notes and not dating anything is unbelievably slipshod, and (3) She deliberately disobeyed a court order from Judge Marie Williams to stay away from the Henke children and have no contact with them.
Remember, she claimed to report something entirely new that never had come into the testimony before. And she did it with "hearsay." Unbelievable.
She is a licensed social worker for the State of Tennessee, and anyone who might be interested in reporting her to the state board can find that information below:
Contact the Board of Social Workers
To contact this board, call (615) 532-3202 local or 1-800-778-4123 nationwide or write:
227 French Landing, Suite 300
Nashville, TN 37243
If Evans is not willing to tell the truth under oath, and if she openly and arrogantly disobeys a judge and is part of a scheme to try to convict an innocent person and send her to prison for the rest of her life, she does not need to be in this kind of a position. There are few things more devastating to the court system than social workers who lie under oath in cases such as this.
[Update I, Wednesday 1:30 PM]: Dennis Norwood of the Chattanoogan has an excellent article covering this morning's testimony.
If there is one word (besides "travesty") that can characterize the sham trial of Tonya Craft, it is this: misconduct. We have witnessed massive misconduct on behalf of Judge Brian House, and prosecutors Chris Arnt and Len Gregor. That is not my opinion; that is what attorneys and others who have spent much of their professional lives being involved with the law-enforcement and judicial systems.
Furthermore, none of the three men are making any efforts to hide their misconduct, as much of it has been recorded and will be part of a permanent record. When people in this position engage in this kind of conduct, they usually try to find ways to hide it, just as Mike Nifong did in North Carolina during the Duke Lacrosse Case.
This is not the Soviet Union, in which the infamous Show Trials of the 1930s were brazenly crooked and broke all the rules of jurisprudence, but no one cared, as Stalin was the law there and he could do what he wanted. No, this is the United States, which has a tradition of law carried down from England and has been based upon what William Blackstone called the "Rights of Englishmen."
So, why would a judge and two prosecutors engage in the worst kind of misconduct, do it openly, and continue to go down the same path even as others point out what is happening? Why would three men endanger their own law careers?
I must admit some things do not make sense. First, no prosecutor in the State of Georgia would be willing to bring child molestation charges against anyone if witnesses of the stature of Dr. Fajman, Dr. Hazzard, Dr. Aldridge and Dr. Benet were emphatic in saying they believed no abuse happened.
Second, no prosecutor is going to claim that a high-school graduate like Suzi Thorne is a more credible forensic witness than Dr.s Aldridge and Benet, who literally wrote the book on such investigations. Stacey Long simply has no credibility next to these people, and neither would Holly Nave Kittle or even Sharon Anderson. And then there is Laurie Evans, who was "ground zero" with the therapists and who was the subject of a court order by Hamilton County Judge Marie Williams, who declared Evans to be "incompetent" and ordered her to have NO CONTACT with the children of Tonya Craft. In other words, in the battle of witnesses, the defense wins hands down.
Yet, House, Arnt and Gregor continue to insist that the defense witnesses are lying -- yes, lying -- and their witnesses are telling the truth. I can tell you that if there is a conviction, the appellate courts will not only look at the literally hundreds of errors committed and permitted by House, but they will also look at the credibility of the evidence itself. Courts usually don't look at the evidence, but rather procedures, but because of the stature of the defense witnesses, the courts will take what they say seriously.
Furthermore, even after Judge Williams' order, the prosecution still uses Evans, which tells me a number of things and also helps to answer the questions I ask at the beginning of this post. So, why the misconduct? Here are some short answers and I will go into detail later:
- Judges and prosecutors in the LMJD are used to the place being their own fiefdoms. This is not unusual with state courts, especially in the South, where there is little interference from other districts. This permits a lot of misconduct on behalf of prosecutors and judges that goes unpunished.
- Most defendants in tried in the LMJD do not have resources for the kind of representation that Tonya Craft has had, which means that the attorneys are easily rolled. Furthermore, the defense bar is told in no uncertain terms that if judges and prosecutors are displeased with them, that will spell huge career troubles.
- There is a strong aversion that people in these courts have to "outsiders" who are "telling us how to run things." That was the situation in the Duke Lacrosse case and, if we go back almost 80 years, the Scottsboro Boys trials, which were held not far from Chattanooga.
- Prosecutors and judges are used to having their colleagues elsewhere always having their backs, which gives people a sense of invulnerability. Add the fact that they are immune from lawsuits and prosecution if they are seen as acting within the scope of their duties, and you have people who believe that they can make up the rules, and refuse to follow those rules already established.
- Len Gregor especially is used to playing by his own rules. In this case he and Arnt clearly have suborned perjury, and the appeals courts will look seriously at it, and the State Bar also will have an interest in it. However, when a prosecutor believes he is invulnerable, then he or she feels free to have a witness lie on the stand, as there usually are no consequences.
Furthermore, I am sure that neither Arnt nor Gregor believe this case will be any different. They see themselves as invulnerable and, after all, the local press for years has hailed them as heroes, no matter how bad their misconduct might have been. People like to see "take charge" people and even if they run roughshod over the rights of others, many, if not most, Americans today believe that if someone is charged with a crime, that person should have no rights. So, the real underlying question is this: Why is the Tonya Craft case different? Furthermore, why do I believe that there will be consequences for Arnt, House, and Gregor after this trial ends?
First, and most important, this is the first time that any of them have been involved in a case that has been this heavily scrutinized from the outside. They cannot control the events outside the courtroom as they have been able before. Now, they tried. House's gag order was a powerful weapon against the defense, but outside writers, bloggers, and reporters are not bound by that order and House can do nothing about what they write. (And none of us have any contact with the defense. I will say that the defense has been quite honorable in submitting to House's dishonorable action.)
House, Arnt and Gregor seem to believe that just because they have near-complete control of the events within the courthouse, and that the courthouse comprises the entire universe in their view, nothing that happens outside matters. I believe that is wrong. What develops outside makes a difference, perhaps not in this case but in future cases and also in the scrutiny these men will receive from people who matter.
Second, they have angered some very influential people. People like Dr. Aldridge and Dr. Bernet are not ordinary "expert" witnesses. Their testimony in the courts is like that of Ahithophel of the Old Testament, and for them to be intimated by the prosecution as incompetent or even liars is going to have consequences. These are people who have the ear of other prosecutors, attorneys, and judges and I can tell readers that Dr. Nancy Aldridge is angry about what has happened, and she is not going to be silent after the trial ends.
By openly favoring inferior "experts" Thorne, the prosecution also is sending a message downstate that it will play only by its own rules and that the real experts are liars and charlatans. This is not going to sit well with a lot of people who are influential.
Third, by teaming with House to keep LEGAL exculpatory information from the jury, these men have stepped over the line regarding what the codes of conduct by the Georgia State Bar clearly state. Their actions make it look as though they were protecting perjured testimony from others and are trying to keep the truth out of the courtroom. This is a serious offense, and if there is a conviction and the appeals courts find that prosecutors deliberately kept exculpatory evidence from the trial, and with the overt aid of a judge, then there is no way that these people can walk away from this unscathed.
My sense is that Arnt and Gregor have done this before, but this is the first time they have done it on camera. Because they have operated this way in the past, and because they have not been called out for it, they have come to believe, in my opinion, that they are entitled to act in this manner. As Gregor himself declared on a blog, he loves to be a prosecutor because he gets to be "The Man."
Fourth, like most prosecutors and judges, they believe a "guilty" verdict, no matter how it was engineered, vindicates their actions. They always can claim: "A jury found Tonya Craft guilty in a court of law." However, if that is the case, then the real issue that the courts would want to see would be this: How did the verdict come about? Because of the open-ended abuse that has occurred in this case, I am sure that the justices downstate are going to take a very hard look at what happened, should Tonya Craft be convicted.
Fifth, Arnt, House, and Gregor believed they had a slam dunk case and that Ms. Craft would be quickly convicted and they were not prepared for a fight like this. People who believe that they run the show are not going to take kindly to anyone who challenges them, especially given the bullying nature that characterizes both Arnt and Gregor. Thus, they have teamed up with House to totally change all of the rules of evidence, even if that means the possibility of the case being overturned.
Sixth, Arnt, Gregor, and House never have had any of their actions thoroughly scrutinized. The local media certainly has not taken a hard look at their cases, and certainly no one has even thought to ask whether or not the "expert witnesses" from the Children's Advocacy Center should have any credibility.
In other words, it has been business as usual, and there was no reason that anyone believed this trial would be any different. Furthermore, influential people in Catoosa County have been part of this effort, both as prosecution witnesses and as backers of this whole endeavor. There was no reason to think that it would run into any snags.
Seventh, the fact that judicial officials outside the particular court have not intervened and do not generally intervene during a trial or while the judicial process of a case is in progress has given House, Arnt, and Gregor the window they need to do whatever they want. The only time I ever have seen intervention into an abusive system has been in the Duke case, when the North Carolina State Bar filed formal charges against Mike Nifong while before the proceedings even had advanced to a trial. That was a huge exception.
The players in the system want to protect the system, and over the years, the prosecutors have taken over much of the apparatus. Thus, the other people become involved only after everything is finished. (There is an economic research paper waiting for me that deals with this aspect of the courts, which I may try to write later in the year.)
I will admit this whole trial has been unusual, at least by Catoosa County standards. I doubt that someone from the Today Show ever has stepped foot in that courthouse before, and no one anticipated that it would generate interest outside the Chattanooga area.
However, that interest also is a game changer, and it has placed the actions of House, Gregor, and Arnt under scrutiny they never have faced before. Like Mike Nifong, they believe that the "good old boys" of the system will blunt or eliminate any repercussions from their gross and obvious misconduct.
No trial ever should be run like what we have seen, even if the defendant actually were guilty, and guilty as sin. We have a long and hallowed tradition of the rights of the accused and the right to a fair trial, and we have seen these violated in such an execrable way that either there is redress and accountability, or we might as well have no trials at all and move straight to the punishment phase for anyone who is accused.