Because it is nearly 5,000 words, I am putting it in two parts. Anyway, here is the first part:
Dear Mr. Franklin:
I am writing this letter to you in response to your press release given on Friday, May 14, and because I was the main blogger in this case (and I have no doubt that you and your staff read my comments), I believe that I need to give some answers in response to your accusations, many of which were absolutely untrue. Furthermore, much of what you have said in your release seems to be aimed at intimidating the jurors in the Tonya Craft case, as well as intimidating future jurors that will hear criminal cases in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit.
As one who has followed a large number of criminal trials and proceedings, I must say that the only case to which I can compare the trial against Ms. Craft was the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, in which three lacrosse players from Duke University were falsely accused of raping Crystal Gail Mangum. However, District Attorney Michael B. Nifong indicted the players, and then lied, falsified evidence, and ultimately was caught and disbarred.
I bring up the Duke case because the kind of investigation that was done in that case mirrors the investigation your office carried on in the Craft case, as well as what happened in the infamous McMartin/Little Rascals/Bakersfield/Wenatchee and other such cases in which people were wrongfully convicted. (I find it interesting that your “expert” witnesses were not aware at all of these faux “child molestation” cases when asked about them by the defense during cross-examination.)
There are a number of things I would like to cover in this letter. The first is your conduct toward the Craft jury and its verdict, which you openly criticize, in violation of the ethical standards that govern your profession. I also will comment on your “fair trial” statement, which is puzzling to me, given that the state never was on trial.
I then will comment on the statements and behavior of the state’s witnesses, as well as the behavior or your prosecutors. Last, I want to deal with the way that your office falsely characterized the “expert” witnesses for the defense, calling them “whores of the court” as well as people who “lie for money.” This is a serious accusation, as all four are respected in their field, and Dr. Nancy Aldridge, who usually testifies for the prosecution, is highly-regarded across Georgia, and so your office in characterizing her as a liar also impugns the integrity of every prosecutor who has used her testimony in legal proceedings. To put it mildly, you need to answer for a number of things.
Obviously, I cannot cover everything that happened in the trial, but I believe that at very least I must address some of the merits of your statement, and explain why I believe that you are engaged in illegal intimidation. Let us begin with your comment on the verdict itself:
I was disappointed with the verdict in the Tonya Craft case. The State presented a strong and compelling case to support a conviction, however, the jury chose to acquit her and we must accept this decision.There is nothing wrong with that statement, as it follows within the guidelines of the ABA’s ethical rules for prosecutors:
Standard 3-5.10 Comments by Prosecutor After Verdict
The prosecutor should not make public comments critical of a verdict, whether rendered by judge or jury.
Yet, you then declare the following, which clearly violates what the previously-listed standard:
Child molesters rarely commit their crime in public. Child molesters rarely confess. Child molesters are rarely caught on tape. Child molesters rarely leave behind physical evidence. A jury must often make a choice between the testimony of an abused child and the alleged perpetrator. If a jury refuses to convict without videotapes, confession or physical evidence, it will be impossible to convict most child molesters.In reading the few interviews that exist with jurors in that case, it is utterly clear that your portrayal of them doing something akin to judging a beauty contest is dead wrong. These jurors spoke to the evidence presented and to the behavior of your prosecutors, and the especially cited what they believed to be “lies” told by Chris Arnt during the closing arguments by misrepresenting the testimony of Dr. Nancy Fajman. (The defense objected, but Judge Brian House, as he had done when prosecutors were badgering witnesses and he overruled defense objections by declaring, “He’s on cross,” then declared during the closing arguments that “He’s on close.”)
It was particularly troubling in this case to hear statements attributed to some jurors that they looked at the defendant and decided she just didn't look like someone who would commit such a crime. We must necessarily base our cases on the evidence and not how a defendant looks. We do not simply prosecute those who fit the unsavory profile a juror might have.
What you said clearly violates the rules of conduct that supposedly govern your office. You are not to attack jurors, and what you said earlier smacks of intimidation. In effect, you wrote something akin to this: The prosecution presented a strong case and jurors were too stupid or too craven to recognize the brilliance of what Arnt and Len Gregor did. They should have convicted Ms. Craft, and by not agreeing with my assessment of the case, the jurors did something terrible.
Indeed, by setting up a straw man and then ignoring what jurors actually told the media about the substance of the case, you have crossed the line, although this hardly is the first time you have done so in the prosecution of Ms. Craft. Your actions here are deceitful, and I believe you are trying to send a message to jurors that will hear future cases that are controversial that they had better bow to the prosecution’s desires.
After all, what did you say? You said that the state “presented a strong and compelling case to support a conviction” which implies that the jury should have rendered the verdict you wanted. Yet, the jurors disagreed with your assessment? Does that make them wrong? You imply that they should have come to the decision that you desired, but they are not obligated to bow down to your wishes, period.
It seems to me that you are telling potential jurors in the LMJC that the prosecutors are so superior and that they always are correct, so to contradict them is unacceptable. I don’t think so. First, your ADAs are not as good as you think and certainly not as good as they think. Second, your assessment that somehow the defense was dishonest and bullied witnesses is untruthful, as courtroom observers, as well as the videotape of the proceedings tell a much different story.
I now would like to examine the following statement that you make regarding the press and the bloggers:
In most cases, the media strives to present their coverage of criminal trials in a fair and even-handed way that serves to inform the public. In this case, a number of local reporters openly took sides and heavily slanted their coverage in favor of the defense.First, I need to remind you, sir, that the State of Georgia was not on trial. Instead, it was the duty of the State of Georgia and your office to help to put on a fair trial, and I can tell you that despite your best efforts to replicate the court of Roland Friesler, the jurors still saw through your case.
Combined with the dynamics of the internet blogosphere, it created an environment hostile to the State's ability to receive a fair trial and portrayed the victims and their families in a false and negative light. This was an integral, purposeful and shameless part of the defense strategy. This will result in child victims and their supportive family members refusing to come forward for fear of a similar portrayal in the public. My office has never tried cases in the media and we won't start now.
Second, the jurors all said that they had not read the newspapers, saw news broadcasts, or read the blogs, so if you are saying that I and others influenced them, then you also must accuse these jurors of misconduct. If you are not ready to bring criminal charges against them, then perhaps you need to change your statements.
I would challenge you to name me one instance in which the news media or my blog “portrayed the victims and their families in a false and negative light.” First, they were “alleged” victims, and for you to declare that Tonya Craft is guilty after a jury has ruled “not guilty” is to spit in the face of the system you claim to support. Second, I want to challenge you to show one instance of the “false light” example. Disagreeing with what they were saying, by the way, does not count, for if your views are to be taken as ex cathedra, then there really is no need for a trial.
I did not know any of the families or their children, nor did I know Tonya Craft, so I had no incentive to put people I did not know in a “false light.” However, you made a statement that was so utterly untrue and calumnious that I must address it as my second point. You declare that that what I wrote was “an integral, purposeful and shameless part of the defense strategy.” It will tell you flat out that what you said is a lie.
During this trial, I had NO contact with the defense, none. There was a gag order and even had there been no such order, I still would not have coordinated anything with the defendant (who I did not know) or her attorneys. You can check my emails and my phone records and you will not find ANY contact with the defense, so to claim that my blog was part of a “defense strategy” is a lie. Let me repeat it: What you said was false.
What I wrote, I wrote because I was observing the day’s proceedings, watching your witnesses on the news, and observing the behavior of your ADAs, Arnt and Gregor. To be honest, what I was seeing was outrageous, and that was why I wrote what I did. For you to claim that I was writing what I did on order of Dr. Demosthenes Lorandos and the other attorneys is to engage in false speech, which also violates the ethical standards of your office.
Also, Len Gregor dressed down Melydia Clewell of WRCB-TV in open court. The idea of an ADA trying to intimidate a journalist in front of a judge (who apparently approved of this outrageous act) violates all ethical standards, and you know it. Furthermore, Ms. Clewell was not acting in concert with the defense, nor was she a source for my daily posts. That’s right. My sources included people you did not know and could not control through gag orders or anything else.
Don’t forget that your prosecutors made public statements to the press that by declaring she was innocent, Ms. Craft was “acting guilty,” which was quoted in the Catoosa News on March 8. Mr. Arnt also had an inflammatory posting on his Facebook page on January 27, 2010, which violated Rules 3.6 and 3.8, as prosecutors are not allowed to engage in Trial by Facebook. I have documentation of both things, so please do not try to say that this did not happen. As you know, Michael Nifong was disbarred in North Carolina in part because of his public statements, and while Georgia has different rules, the overall ethical standards are supposed to be similar. However, since your ADAs tried, in effect, to try the case in the media, your statement is false.
I next would like to address the conduct of your witnesses, and especially those from the Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Georgia. As was noted in a number of independent reports, your CAC witnesses, when questioned by the defense, rolled their eyes, made noises, shrugged their shoulders, and generally were hostile as opposed to acting like professionals. It is obvious that they are used to having their way in trials held in the LMJD, yet when we look both at their credentials and their performance, there is no way that they have been held to any professional standards.
As you know, therapists, interviewers, and medical professionals are supposed to document events, yet one of the things missing from almost all of them (with the exception of Sharon Anderson, who still faltered on a number of key questions during cross-examination, but has not updated her training, as she still is using outdated methods and analysis). Perhaps the most egregious example came from Suzi Thorne, who claimed that after she had interviewed Raegan Lamb (Accuser #1), and the girl had “disclosed” nothing, then suddenly after the cameras were turned off, she then made a claim of an act of sexual penetration that was so violent that it is certain there would have been terrible physical damage (which apparently never was the case).
Ms. Thorne, who does not even have a college degree and is not qualified under any circumstances to do this kind of work, said that she did nothing to document this “explosive” encounter. She did not turn back on the video camera, nor did she write anything in her notes. She then claimed that a detective (that she could not identify on the stand) took down notes, but nothing like that had been given the defense at discovery.
I will tell you, Mr. Franklin, that this testimony reeks of perjury, and it clearly does not pass any “smell test.” That Det. Tim Deal at the next session would claim to have been the one present, and then the prosecution suddenly “discovering” the document in question is something that you have to understand is going to make people like me very, very suspicious. I believe that one always should be suspicious of deus ex machina actions by either the defense or the prosecution, and the notion that Thorne’s testimony should not have been scrutinized to the hilt is laughable.
Would you have been willing to accept such a state of affairs had the defense suddenly come up with this kind of testimony? For that matter, the prosecution, working with House, managed to keep out reams of exculpatory material from the evidence file, including the notes that Dr. Ann Hazzard kept on her sessions with the two children of Tonya Craft. It is interesting that the prosecution considered those notes to be “hearsay,” but that you are willing to claim that the unmemorialized testimony of Suzi Thorne was “legitimate” evidence.
I will go even further. All of the prosecution “experts” associated with the Children’s Advocacy Centers admitted that they did not read any current academic and professional literature that deals with the techniques of interviewing children suspected of having been abused, sexually or otherwise. In fact, one of your witnesses, Stacy Long, laughed and said, “So what!” during cross-examination when asked about asking leading questions to children, yet one of the documented reasons that we have false accusations in cases like this is that interviewers ask leading questions.
(Part II tomorrow)