In a prejudicial and sympathetic interview with (Who else?) Channel 9, prosecutor Chris Arnt declared that the defense had no evidence to overcome what the prosecution was presenting:
When you don't have evidence on your side, when you don't have truth on your side, you have to go out and try to poison the jury pool and that's the kind of stuff they're pulling.Understand that the guy making this claim is the same person who told the Catoosa News in a March 8, 2010, story that by declaring her innocence, Tonya Craft was "acting guilty," and then attacked Tonya and her attorneys on a Facebook posting. (Arnt claimed in this sob story interview with -- Who else? -- Channel 9 that his FB page had been "hacked," which was another Pinocchio-sized lie.)
Keep in mind that Arnt's public statements were aimed at trying to prejudice the local jury pool, which violates the ethical rules set by the Georgia State Bar, violations which I am sure people will be reporting to the Bar soon enough. The question that I have is this: Why was the prosecution hellbent on making prejudicial pre-trial statements even though the prosecutors knew they were violating their state rules of conduct?
The only answer I can give is that their "evidence," when finally put forward in court, had a "Where's the beef?" quality to it. Just the interviews alone that CAC personnel and Det. Tim Deal had with the children are so badly performed, and the answers given are so ridiculous that it is no wonder that Dr. Nancy Aldridge, Dr. Ann Hazzard, and Dr. William Bernet told the court that the entire interviewing process was badly flawed.
There are pages and pages of notes on the interviews with the children, and I have no intention of making readers get lost in the details. However, there are patterns that have emerged as researchers and I slog through this material, and it is plain to see that, if anything, either the interviewers were just plain clueless or they decided beforehand that the children HAD been sexually abused, and they were going to get SOMETHING out of them that was incriminating.
In this post, I look at the interviewers, their techniques, and how they conducted themselves and their interviews with the children. It is safe to say that none of these people will worry about having to be hired by a competent agency anytime soon.
When interviewing children, and especially young children suspected of having been sexually abused, interviewers need to take a number of precautions. From what we have seen from the interviews and their appearances at the Tonya Craft trial, these questioners did not follow rules of professional conduct in almost every area of their work, and one only can imagine that if these are the people whose testimony is seen as enough to convict people in the LMJC of child molestation, then Georgia prisons have a number of wrongly-convicted people in them.
First, and most important, interviewers should NOT ask leading questions of young children. Youngsters not only are impressionable, but they also want to please adults, but it must be clear that those doing the interviews demonstrate that they want the child to tell not only what might have happened, but also what did NOT happen. In other words, the interview should lead to the truth, versus the interview taking place in an effort to guide the child's testimony to the conclusions the adults want them to reach.
Second, the adult doing the interviewing should not ask the same questions repeatedly, for this tells the child that the answer he or she is giving is not correct. Thus, if a child tells the interviewer that "nothing happened," yet the adult continues to ask the child questions in a manner that implies, "'Nothing happened' is the wrong answer," then the child is likely to get the message that another story is going to please the adults.
One of the consistent patterns that arose from the day care sex abuse hysteria trials in this country two decades ago was that the children at the start told investigators that nothing happened, and there was no abuse. However, because the interviewers continued to badger the children and make outright demands that these children "disclose" abuse, ultimately the children understood how to make the adults happy, and then the system of "justice" was off to the races.
As the children continued to "disclose," the stories became more and more fantastic. There were babies being cooked in microwave ovens, children being forced to eat human feces, "magic rooms" in which all sorts of terrible things happened, there were secret tunnels, animal sacrifices, children being thrown to sharks, adults shoving swords into the rectums of children (and, amazingly, leaving no marks), and more.
To the normal person, all of these claims would have been red flags that maybe the testimony was ridiculous, but to government-employed "child advocates," they were "proof" that "something happened." Like people who fell for the "Big Lie" told by Hitler's favorite propagandist Joseph Goebbels, social workers, judges, prosecutors, and jurors, not to mention the media, fell for this nonsense in droves, and innocent people went to prison.
Over time, as the courts overturned many of the guilty verdicts and other people naturally reacted from what clearly was ridiculous testimony, people who understood childhood development began to look for appropriate ways to interview children suspected of having been sexually abused so that people would not be falsely accused. People like Dr. Aldridge and Dr. Bernet worked hard to put together sets of guidelines to enable proper and truthful questioning of young children in these situations.
Unfortunately, pockets of interviewers exist where people are poorly-trained and are likely to engage in all of the wrong things, and the LMJC is a hotbed of all of that. The interviews with the three children were conducted by four people associated with the Children's Advocacy Center and the Greenhouse, as well as Det. Tim Deal. The four CAC/Greenhouse interviewers were Laurie Evans, Holly Kittle, Stacey Long, and Suzie Thorne.
None of the people who conducted the interviews is well-trained in interviewing children, and, interestingly, none of them were familiar with the numerous false molestation cases such as McMartin, Little Rascals, Kelly Michaels and others. On the witness stand, they rolled their eyes at questions asked by the defense, shrugged their shoulders, giggled, and clearly demonstrated that they were not professionals in any sense of the word.
Evans already was under a court order in Tennessee not to have any contact with the children of Tonya Craft, an order she coldly disobeyed. Furthermore, Evans had mental health issues that at the time were so severe that no thinking parent would want her to be helping to lead an investigation into child molestation. Yet, here she was, leading the pack of people trying to put Tonya Craft into prison for the rest of her life.
Thorne has no college degree, and her background training hardly qualifies her to be questioning children. Furthermore, not only was Thorne totally unaware of the hysteria cases in which there were wrongful convictions, she seemed to be proud of her ignorance when the defense exposed her on the witness stand. To make matters worse, the lawsuit Ms. Craft and her attorneys have filed against Thorne alleges that Thorne committed perjury during her testimony, which does not exactly make me confident about the professional qualities of child interviewers in the LMJC.
Long seems to have the most training and the best credentials, although her questions in the Craft case, along with the investigation of Brad Wade, clearly fall into the "leading" category. Professionals such as Dr. Aldridge, Dr. Bernet, and Amy H. Morton, who now is an expert witness in Mr. Wade's appeal, have been especially critical of Long's questioning techniques and her apparent desires to draw children to give the answers she wants to hear.
Kittle, while having a college degree in anthropology, is another CAC staffer who clearly is not qualified to do this kind of work. Her training before she began to interview children in the Craft case consisted of a five-day seminar, and yet her superiors, not to mention Arnt and Gregor, considered her to be qualified to give "expert" testimony on a very difficult subject in which a person's life was at stake.
(I am curious if the prosecutors, along with Deal, Brian House, and the CAC staff, would be willing to be passengers in an airliner in which the pilot had only five days of training. Yet, they were and are willing to engage in the equivalent action of letting poorly-trained, agenda-driven people tell jurors what they perceive to be a set of facts that, if true, should have the power to destroy the lives of other people.)
For the sake of brevity, I will not say much about Deal except that the guy clearly is out of his league, at least when it comes to interviewing children. No real professional in this field would hold any of his testimony to have veracity.
In future posts, I will look specifically at testimony by the three girls, showing how each of them began by denying that any sexual abuse had taken place, but after Deal and the CAC workers badgered them for a year, the stories began to take shape. Not only were these stories contradictory and inconsistent, they became embellished as time went on, a sure red flag for anyone searching for the truth.
In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, Joe Alleva, who then was the athletic director at Duke University, canceled the 2006 men's lacrosse season, and after the coach implored Alleva to try to find the truth as to the allegations, Alleva replied, "It's not about the truth, anymore."
Indeed, the Tonya Craft case was not about the truth. As my researchers and I go through the interview material, we can see that Deal and the CAC people wanted to reach certain conclusions in order to help Arnt and Gregor build a false case against Tonya Craft. I have no doubt in my mind that these people knew what they were doing; they were coldly and deliberately attempting to take the life of an innocent person.