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March 12, 2013

Attorneys deliver opening arguments in child sex abuse trial

Two alleged child victims scheduled to testify against Charlestown woman

JEFFERSONVILLE — Jury selection and opening arguments took place in the first day of a child molestation trial Tuesday that is being heard in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.

Juanita Fisher, 35, of Charlestown, 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.

The charges stem from allegations of sexual abuse on a boy and a girl who are Fisher’s relatives. The children were between ages of 7 and 11, when the alleged crimes took place between 2006 and 2011, Charlestown police reported.

The allegations include Fisher performing oral sex and having intercourse with the boy. Fisher is also believed to have coerced the two children to perform sexual acts on one another.

The obstruction of justice charge follows a claim that Fisher threatened the boy that he could be incarcerated if he shared with investigators claims of sexual abuse.

Fisher is being represented by two public defenders, lead counsel Mitchele Harlan and acting co-counsel Jeffrey Stonebraker.

Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Linda Lamping is representing the state, and Judge Daniel Moore is presiding over the trial.

Both of the children, who are now teenagers, are expected to testify during the trial.

During Lamping and Harlan’s opening arguments, it became evident that jurors will have to decide for themselves if the children have been honest in their claims of sexual abuse. That judgment alone, to made be the jury, appears to be a significant factor on whether Fisher will be acquitted of the charges or begin an extended stay in the Indiana Department of Correction.

Through a serious of interviews with police investigators, a Department of Child Services official and a forensic interviewer, the children were not always consistent in their accounts of abuse. Lamping said those inconsistencies should not be interpreted by discounting the validity of their claims of abuse.

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