Tonya Craft, a former kindergarten teacher, charged with 22 counts of various sexual offenses involving 3 minor girls, was acquitted today. You may or may not have heard of her. I wrote a post recently about the trial and some of the outrageous antics engaged in by the prosecutors.
She was represented by Demosthenes Lorandos, who apparently has made a habit of successfully defending child sex cases across the country, and who hilariously said at the post-verdict press conference: “I do not lose”.
The media has been all over this trial, bringing it much needed attention. At first, the attention focused on the misbehavior of the prosecutors [see this for some very questionable comments during closing] and later the complete lack of qualification and training of the so-called “child sex experts”.
Twitter was set ablaze today as the jury was deliberating and the tweets of joy were abundant when the verdict was announced. Parties have been planned, interviews being given on the news and Ms. Craft will now fight to regain custody of her children.
All’s well that ends well. But this is not a happy post, nor is it a merely celebratory one. While Ms. Craft has the opportunity to return to her life, there are lessons for all of us. A fellow defense lawyer asked on Twitter: “Who is #tonyacraft and why [is she] any different from all of our other human tragedies?”
She is not. There are hundreds of Tonya Crafts out there in the criminal justice system, every single day, pleading to charges to avoid lengthy sentences or attempting to fight the false allegations and losing.
Any criminal defense lawyer (like yours truly) saw a stream of familiarity in the continuing coverage by news reporters of the direct and cross-examinations of the witnesses. The dissection of the forensic interviews by the defense experts was a veritable checklist of the problems associated with such after-the-fact divining: repeated questions, leading questions, suggestive questions. Pressuring children to answer a certain way; the worst form of confirmation bias. The prosecutors attempting to cast the defendant in general terms as a bad person, a person of loose moral character, thus equating foibles in their character with child molestation.
This. Happens. Every. Day. Continue reading