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March 15, 2013

Second teen gives testimony in molest case

Girl claims adult relative directed her in sex acts

JEFFERSONVILLE — A 15-year-old girl testified in a Clark County court Friday that she was coerced to have sexual intercourse with her brother while in the care of Juanita Fisher, 35, a relative.

The child wept as she made her way to the witness stand during the third day of the trial.

The girl was the fourth witness called by Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Linda Lamping. The child’s brother, 17, provided a similar testimony Wednesday that he and his sister were instructed to have sex after Fisher called them into a bedroom of her Charlestown home.

According to the girl’s testimony, once Fisher had brought the two into the bedroom, she told them to remove their clothing and touch one another.

“She [Fisher] told him to insert his private part in my private part,” the girl told the court.

During cross examination of the witness, Fisher’s defense attorney Mitchele Harlan attempted to chip away at the girl’s believability.

Harlan produced several transcriptions of interviews that the child had given to Department of Child Services officials, counselors, attorneys and law enforcement officials since the allegations were first raised in August 2011. The siblings have given multiple accounts of the alleged sex abuse to authorities. And, both children have been inconsistent in their accounts, according to recorded interviews referenced during the trial.

Harlan also produced a series of Facebook messages between the girl and another young girl, who was her brother’s girlfriend during the time of alleged abuse. In the exchange, the girl admits that she knew her brother, who initially reported the abuse, was lying. Harlan also raised the fact that the girl had told a relative that the abuse had never occurred.

Those denials came after the girl confirmed the alleged abuse with authorities.

“When this young lady was initially questioned by me, we brought out the fact that she had not only put Facebook postings out, but told everybody that she could talk to that it wasn’t true,” Lamping said. “She testified today that she did that because she didn’t want [Fisher] to hate her.”

Harlan continued attempting to discredit the girl’s allegations by pointing out for the jurors the inconsistencies of her previous interviews.

In the courtroom, the girl said the alleged encounter took place in 2008, when she would have been 9- or 10-years old. In a previous statement, she said the abuse took place before she entered kindergarten.

“That is our perspective — that it is such a large gap,” Harlan said. “It seems like, even with a child, you would be able to narrow it down closer, especially, when we are talking about a child who is 15,”

Harlan also exposed the inconsistencies of the siblings’ accounts with one another.

The boy testified that his sister was already in the bedroom where the alleged abuse took place, while the girl testified they had entered the room together after Fisher called them into the home.

The boy stated in court that Fisher stood in the corner of the room during the alleged encounter. The girl testified that no one was in the corner of the room during the alleged abuse.

The boy testified that there were two beds in the room, and the girl testified there was only one.

After Friday’s hearing, Lamping said that all of the children’s inconsistencies stem from the trauma following the abuse.

“Molesting is something people do in secret,” Lamping said. “They don’t advertise it, so nobody has a reference to when events occurred.”

Lamping said she will call a therapist specializing in sex crimes to testify how sexual abuse can distort a person’s ability to accurately recollect the traumatic events.

“This is something, as the boy said, ‘Absolutely, blasts your mind open that your [relative] would do this,’’ she said.

The physical evidence entered by the prosecution has been limited, and it continues to appear the verdict will come down to how much weight the jurors give to the believability of children’s testimonies.

Harlan said he can’t point to a single incident that would have given the children motive to fabricate the sex abuse.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I think there is one thing that is probably clear that you have seen through the testimonies, it is a very imperfect family,” Harlan said. “We may never know why the two of them made these, what we believe, false allegations.”

Fisher is facing two counts of class A felony child molestation; C felony child molestation; B felony incest; two counts vicarious sexual gratification, both C felonies; and D felony obstruction of justice. She faces a maximum 147 years in jail.

The trial is set to reconvene in Judge Daniel Moore’s Circuit Court No 1. on Monday morning.

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