September 13, 2011

Children to testify by closed-circuit TV in molest trial

9-13-2011 Indiana:

EVANSVILLE — Two children won't have to directly face the woman accused of molesting and abusing them when they testify in her trial Wednesday.

Instead, the children will testify by closed circuit television. Vanderbugh County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Perry said it is the first time such a procedure will be used in the county.

Janella Datcher, 36, is charged with two counts of child molesting, Class A felonies, and two counts of battery causing bodily injury, class D felonies. She has been held at the Vanderburgh County Jail in lieu of $25,000 cash bail since her arrest in February.

Indiana law allows use of closed circuit television for testimony from alleged victims in certain cases if the witness see the person accused and the person accused can see and hear the person testifying.

In a Sept. 6 order, Vanderburgh Circuit Court Magistrate Kelli Fink ruled that requiring them to testify in the woman's physical presence "would create a substantial likelihood of emotional and mental harm to these people."

A foster parent of both girls testified in a hearing last month that the girls reacted with fear and anger when the woman was mentioned and that one of the girls believed she may not be safe from her, according to court records.

In addition, a counselor working with the children said that "testifying in front of (her) would be very damaging to these children and that the children could be retraumatized and become extremely fearful."

She testified that was more likely to happen if they were in the same room than if they were testifying by camera from a different room.

Police arrested Datcher in February after a warrant for her arrest was issued. Throughout the investigation, Datcher denied sexually abusing the girls but did admit to several instances of alleged physical abuse, according to an Evansville Police Department officer in an affidavit of probable cause filed by the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office. However, polygraph test results indicated deception when she was questioned about the alleged sexual abuse.

According to court records, the 6- and 4-year-old girls disclosed the abuse. One told investigators that Datcher put her hand in an oven near the red hot coils, beat her with belt and a looped electric cord and at one point held a lighted piece of paper near the girl's bared genitals and threatened to burn her.

Medical examinations of the two girls revealed signs of sexual abuse consistent with the girls' claims and found they had scars on their backs and legs, according to the affidavit. ..Source.. by Mark Wilson

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