A Douglas County judge Wednesday ruled a 7-year-old alleged victim in a Eudora sex crime case could testify via video feed at the trial out of the presence of the defendant.
District Judge Michael Malone granted the motion from prosecutors who worried that being in the same room with the defendant, a 27-year-old Eudora man accused of molesting her, would be traumatic for her and that she would refuse to speak. A mental health clinician testified at an earlier hearing the girl suffered partly from post-traumatic stress disorder and that her behavior had regressed recently when the therapist informed her she may have to go to court.
Defense attorney Hatem Chahine had objected to the motion and argued prosecutors had not proven the girl was specifically afraid of the defendant but just coming to court in general. Judges must find that requiring an alleged child victim to testify in front of a defendant would harm the child’s welfare.
“There’s an opinion that she could completely shut down and not give testimony at all, and that’s not justice either,” Malone said, adding the girl likely would be in the room with only attorneys for both sides while the defendant, jury and judge would watch via video.
Malone did grant a separate motion from Chahine to have an independent psychiatrist evaluate the alleged victim before the trial. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday. Prosecutors accuse the defendant of molesting the girl over about a one-year period before his arrest in July 2011. He faces one count of child rape and two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy.
The Journal-World generally does not identify sex crime suspects unless they are convicted.