The trial of a Faulkner County man accused of two counts rape and one count sexual assault involving a minor victim began on Tuesday.
The state, represented by 20th Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor Troy Braswell and Deputy Prosecutor Carol Crews, called witnesses that as of press time on Tuesday included two of the victim’s school friends (to be referred to hereafter as Witness 1 and Witness 2), Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Chad Wooley, the alleged victim’s school counselor and the victim herself, now a teen.
The State, in interviewing Witness 1 and Witness 2, tried to establish that the victim was upset and crying during school lunch in September, 2012, and when asked what was wrong, told her friends that her mother’s live-in boyfriend, 45-year-old Matthew Brian Burnside, had sexually assaulted or raped her, and that they took her to the school counselor.
The school counselor testified that the alleged victim, who the counselor said was usually shy and slow to speak, was speaking quickly and emotionally about the alleged sexual attacks, which the counselor said the girl told her had happened 2 or three times in the past.
The alleged victim was interviewed by specialist investigators with the Children’s Advocacy Alliance and also by FCSO Investigator Wooley. Wooley testified that he interviewed the alleged victim at her home in his duty vehicle along with a female investigator. Wooley testified that the girl was crying during the middle and end of the interview, was visibly frightened and upset when the defendant came out of the house during the interview, and continued crying when she was "alone with the recorder" in the vehicle.
Wooley also testified that the victim had said that at age 10, about two years before the alleged attacks by the defendant, her grandfather, now deceased, had done "the same thing."
The alleged victim herself was visibly upset and crying on the stand. Deputy Prosecutor Crews was, after some questioning, able to get the alleged victim to describe conduct by the defendant that meets the statutory elements of rape, but in cross-examination by defense attorney Otto R. Fry, the girl answered many questions about specific acts she alleged were committed against her in previous interviews by saying "I don’t remember," also saying "I don’t want to remember" and that she tried to "block it out."
The girl did at one point correct Fry that the incident that gives rise the the single sexual assault charge happened in a different location than he had said in his question, and was consistent during examination that there had been incidents in three separate locations — in the defendant’s truck, in a camper and at a residence — though the number of attacks she said had occurred ranged from "Five to ten" to "five or six" to less than 5.
Fry’s questions also raised or pointed out some inconsistencies in the testimony of the alleged victim and her friends, Witness 1 and Witness 2.
Witness 1 could not remember if the day in September, 2012, was the same day the alleged victim had given Witness 2 a copy of the modern adult sexually-themed novel "50 Shades of Gray" and Witness 2 was caught with it by their teacher. Also, Witness 1 testified that the alleged victim had told both of her friends that "her mom’s boyfriend had tried to rape her," whereas Witness 2 testified that the alleged victim whispered it in her hear and the alleged victim testified that she told Witness 2 who then told Witness 1.
When pressed by Fry on her inconsistencies and inability to remember what she said in previous interviews, the alleged victim, still visibly frustrated and crying, said, "No one’s perfect at saying stuff, at putting stuff."
The trial is scheduled to go through today (Wednesday).
(Staff writer Joe Lamb, can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)