Witness testimony recounted off camera

Witness testimony recounted off camera

April 21st, 2010 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

RINGGOLD, Ga. -- An expert who interviewed an alleged victim in the Tonya Craft case testified Tuesday that the child told her about an incident with the former kindergarten teacher after the tape was turned off.

"(She) came into the conference room on her own and said she needed to tell me something else," said Suzie Thorne, a former forensic interviewer at the GreenHouse Children's Advocacy Center in Dalton, Ga.

"You didn't immediately take her back and put her in front of the camera and document what she was telling you, did you?" asked defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos, who also is a clinical psychologist.

"No, I did not," Suzie Thorne responded.

Mr. Lorandos paced the courtroom floor for a few moments, then paused in front of Ms. Thorne.

"You didn't think to write it down?" he asked.

"(The) detective appeared to be writing it down," said Ms. Thorne.

Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga elementary teacher, is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three children.

Prosecutors spent several hours showing the jury videotaped interviews with two of the children before questioning Ms. Thorne about the interview process.

"We don't want to ask leading questions," Ms. Thorne explained to the jury.

He pointed out each time Ms. Thorne had asked the first child, "Did anything else happen?" He counted 16 times during the interview.

She said that repeating the question helps make the child feel comfortable and share her feelings.

Ms. Thorne said a detective asked her to do the interviews. She said the detective wanted someone from outside the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, and the Lookout circuit's advocacy center didn't have an interviewer at the time. The Greenhouse is in the Conasauga Judicial Circuit.

Ms. Thorne testified in cross-examination that a detective interviews an alleged victim's caregiver before she meets or interviews the child.

Mr. Lorandos asked where notes from the caregiver interview are kept before the child interview is conducted. Ms. Thorne said those would be in the detective's notes, not hers.

The rest of the afternoon, Mr. Lorandos asked about the printed transcripts from the children's taped interviews.

Earlier Tuesday, the mother of the second alleged child victim testified. Her name is unidentified to protect the identity of the child.

The witness said she and Ms. Craft had a strained relationship after an incident with their children.

The woman said she returned from a vacation and had a call to take her daughter to the advocacy center about a child-on-child incident. But at the center, she said, she was told Ms. Craft was suspected of touching her daughter and several other girls.

WHAT'S NEXT

The trial of Tonya Craft continues today.

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In cross-examination, defense attorney Scott King asked the woman if she knew about the allegations against Ms. Craft before arriving at the center.

"No," she said.

But when questioned further about a conversation with another parent on the ride to the center, she said she couldn't remember if she asked her daughter about Ms. Craft touching her.

At the end of her testimony she told Mr. King, "Now I remember saying, 'Did anything ever happen at Ms. Tonya's house?'"