As readers of this blog know, Tonya Craft was not the only person that the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit tried to railroad into prison on false child molestation charges. Before Tonya Craft, there was Brad Wade, who was convicted three years ago in Dade County of child molestation charges.
Len "The Man" Gregor prosecuted the case, and Stacy Long of the rogue Children's Advocacy Center was the main prosecution "expert" witness. The trial lasted for three days, and in the end, the jury dutifully convicted Mr. Wade, and now he is in prison to serve a 10-year-term for something he clearly did not do.
Mr. Wade appealed his conviction, and this past week, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed it, and I must admit that even someone as hardened to state injustice as I am still was shocked by the justices' willful blindness. The court took all of the arguments, and then played the game of "let's pretend that the trial was fair."
Mr. Wade's appeal was based upon three points: (1) His counsel was not competent and clearly not prepared for the trial; (2) The prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence; and (3) The line of questioning that Long asked in her interviews of the children was dishonest and suggestive. In all three situation, the justices turned a blind eye.
The "incompetent counsel" is always difficult for justices to understand, as they operate on the premise of: If you are charged with a crime, it is your duty and responsibility to get good counsel. However, there are a number of problems with that mindset.
First, most law-abiding people never come in contact with the courts, unless it is traffic court. Furthermore, people like Mr. Wade, who never had been in trouble with the law, operate upon the assumption that judges are impartial and prosecutors are honest and never would try to frame him or anyone else. Thus, Mr. Wade, like many criminal defendants, never understood what was happening.
Second, and more important, most of us simply have no idea who is competent to provide representation. We know of the "big name" criminal lawyers, but in order to even secure their services, one must have hundreds of thousands of dollars of spare change up front. The justices certainly know this, and they know that even false charges, like those that Ms. Craft faced, still are going to cost a defendant upwards of a million dollars.
(In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, the families of the accused Duke University students had to pay more than $1 million apiece and that case did not even come to trial. The charges were ludicrous, but that did not matter.)
Now, if the justices are proud of the fact that they are presiding over this kind of unjust system, I wish they would come right out and say it, as opposed to making claims that it is fair and just. Instead, the judges hold criminal defendants to very high standards ("You should have known he was a bad lawyer"), but actual attorneys to low standards ("There, there, you are not a bad lawyer"), and then hold prosecutors and other judges to even lower standards.
On the point that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence, the justices seem to be saying in their opinion that since (to them, at least) the evidence was not a "magic bullet," then whether or not the prosecution lied and withheld it is irrelevant. I am of the belief that prosecutors should be held to the highest possible standards of honesty and integrity, but apparently, the powers that be are in disagreement on that point.
The last point -- that the evidence the prosecution was horribly tainted because of Long's manipulative interviews -- was crucial in my view. Furthermore, with Ms. Craft being acquitted (and Long having been one of the prosecution witnesses), the justices should have had their radar at full power.
Mr. Wade's expert witness, Amy Morton, presented a devastating critique of the interviewing techniques that Long used. I was struck not only with Ms. Morton's criticism of the process, but also the way that she systematically explained WHY proper interviewing techniques are so important when children are involved.
There is one point I believe that needs to be made that the justices seem to ignore: The original charges came out of a custody dispute in which his ex-wife used the charges to gain legal leverage. ALL justices should be wary of charges that come from a source that has everything to gain by making them.
Judges have a strong incentive to protect their fellow players, and many judges have come from the ranks of prosecutors. I don't know the background of the Georgia justices that made this decision, but it is clear as I read through the document that they have refused to see the obvious.
Ms. Morton's document was excellent both in its attempt to educate the justices on real problems that come about in child interviews for sexual molestation, but also demonstrating that Long violated about every rule in the book. The absolute cavalier way in which the justices dismissed her words is disturbing but not surprising.
In my thinking, there are a number of reasons why the justices are afraid to deal with the fact that Long is a dishonest and unqualified interviewer. First, Long has testified in a number of other such cases, and if the court deems her to be unreliable here, then the justices could open a number of other convictions for scrutiny.
In this April 17 post, I point out that when popular prosecution witnesses are discredited, then ALL verdicts in which those witnesses had a hand are tainted. (The post deals with rogue prosecution favorites like Steven Hayne and Michael West in Mississippi, as well as the infamous Joyce Gilchrist of Oklahoma.) Appeals judges worship the term "finality," and the prospect of overturning a guilty verdict because a prosecution "expert" witness coaxed outright whoppers from children no doubt worries the justices who would rather that wrongfully-convicted people just shut up and enjoy their stretch in prison. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that actual innocence really is no defense at all. Justices are much more comfortable with the notion that everyone charged and convicted MUST be guilty.
One of the most difficult things to fathom is that appeals judges operate on the assumption that trials are fair, impartial, that prosecutors never lie, and that witnesses for the prosecution always tell the truth. That "judge" Brian Outhouse, and "Alberto-Facebook" and "The Man-Narcissist-Misogynist" are considered by the courts to be the soul of integrity and honesty should give us pause as to what our "justice" system has become.
No doubt, Len "The Man" Gregor is pointing to this "victory" as "proof" that he presented a "compelling" case against Tonya Craft. That is nonsense. Instead, we see once again that the State of Georgia and the LMJC honor and reward dishonest people and grind honest and good people into the dirt.
The decision by the appeals court not only is devastating to Mr. Wade, but also to his mother and sister, who have faithfully maintained Mr. Wade's innocence. We know they will pick up the pieces and make further appeals in the hope that sooner or later, someone in a position of authority will listen to them. Like Mordecai of the Book of Esther, who waited outside the king's gates crying for justice, mother and sister wait for someone in authority to do the right thing.