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The game within the game

Scott Ballard District Attorney

4 months 29 days ago |27 Views | | | Email | Print

You’ve heard sportscasters talk about “the game within the game.”


Will the offensive tackle be able to block the defensive end to give the quarterback time to throw?


Will the batter be able to hit the inside fastball?


In criminal jury trials there is a “game within the game.” The ultimate question is whether the defendant broke the law as alleged. To get there, though, there are minor skirmishes we must win.


This week in Upson County Ben Coker prosecuted a child molestation case. Just as in any case, the objective is to prove each element of the offenses alleged in the indictment. But, what we’re really trying to do is answer two questions.


Is the defendant the type of person who would molest a child? And, why would the child say this happened if it didn’t?


Child molestation cases are about boundaries. Most of us have no interest in crossing those boundaries. Molesters do what society considers taboo. They blur the boundaries.


In this case, the defendant lived a life that paid little regard to commonly accepted sexual boundaries. He had multiple partners. They did kinky stuff. You get the picture. It wouldn’t be a huge leap to believe that he would do prohibited acts with children.


So, why would the child say this happened if it didn’t? Here the defense had real issues. For one thing, we had more than one victim. For another, the girls were too young to know much about sexual matters.


The defense did what they usually do. They tried to inject adults into the mix. Adults were angry with the defendant and “coached” the children. To try to prove that, they look at the language the children used to report the abuse. Was it “age appropriate?” They probe into the circumstances of the report of abuse. Was it timed in a way to benefit some enemy of the defendant?


How do we combat this defense? The children testify.


So, Ben called the children to the witness stand and asked them to share with the jury the sickening things the defendant did to them. Let me give you a brief glimpse.


A frail, thin girl—she looked about ten years old—walked slowly into the courtroom. Her hair was the color of a carrot. And she was scared.


Ben asked her questions designed to assure everyone that she understood the importance of telling the truth. It was clear that she did.


Then he asked her,“Do you remember meeting with me a few days ago and talking about how it would feel to come in here today?” The girl nodded gently.


Ben continued. “I told you that you would probably be nervous and that I would be nervous, too?” The little auburn head nodded again.


“Well, I have to ask you some questions.” The little girl answered each one until Ben got to the very heart of the matter.


“Where did he touch you?”


Silence. Thirty seconds passed. Still silence. By now she was choking back sobs, her little head jerking with each breath.


What adult could teach the child to do this? How was this coached? In what way was this child benefitting by this experience? Everybody in the room knew she was telling the truth. The “game within the game” had been won.


Still, though, we had to prove the case. That would require that she tell what happened. And she would have to identify him as the offender. Could she do it? Or would this creep get away with his crimes?


There is a strength that people receive at times like this. We find that we can do difficult, almost impossible things. And, for this little girl, I watched it happen before my very eyes.


She composed herself. She told what happened. And she stood up and pointed straight at the defendant.


That did it. One more molester is off the streets. For the next 65 years.


Now it’s time for this girl and the other victims to move past this and heal. Based upon what I saw in court, I’m confident that they will find the strength to do just that.

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