ODOR IN THE COURT

IT TOOK COURAGE FOR THE DEAF GIRL TO ALLEGE RAPE. SHE WAS REWARDED WITH AN UNPREPARED PROSECUTOR WHO BUNGLED THE CASE.

Beatty realized that Skillman's defense would be that she had consented to sex. But one-on-one "acquaintance rape" cases often are uphill struggles for prosecutors: Kim had gone to Skillman's house willingly. And a medical exam had revealed few signs of trauma.

To obtain a conviction, Beatty had to prove that just because Kim had gone with Skillman willingly, it didn't mean she'd gone there for sex.

The prosecutor also had to give jurors a crash course in deaf issues, explaining factors beyond the disability itself that make deaf people different from their hearing counterparts.

For example, young deaf people often are more naive and trusting than others in their age group. Also, they are more blind to racial differences than the rest of the world: To the deaf, it's more apt to be the hearing and the nonhearing, not black and white.

But Beatty could never educate jurors about deaf culture, because he never educated himself.

He could have called the state Council for the Hearing Impaired, which routinely provides valuable information on such matters.

If that was too much, a veteran investigator who works on the same floor as Beatty gladly would have briefed him. The investigator is known as an expert in how to deal with the deaf in the criminal-justice system.

Perhaps most important, the prosecutor made no effort to connect with Kim Bradley and her family, even as the trial date approached. Prosecutors don't like to question victims extensively before trial, because they don't want opposing counsel to accuse them of "sandpapering" a witness.

But Kim Bradley's parents wanted to meet the man who would prosecute Skillman. Building rapport, especially with a handicapped teen who was frightened about her pending courtroom ordeal, should have been a priority.

The parents say they first made their feelings known to a victim-witness advocate from the County Attorney's Office who visited Kim at home. But the request went unfulfilled.

"I know prosecutors are busy," Kim's father says, "but one little call back to reassure us that he was thinking about my kid's case would have been fine. [Kim] basically wanted to know: Is he gonna be nice to me?"

That's one way of putting it. Another way is how Beatty's supervisors put it after Skillman's acquittal.

"This victim is a special-needs child who has difficulty communicating," Beatty's letter of reprimand states. "It is essential that more time be spent with victims like her to assist in our collective quest for justice. The failure to meet with this victim in a timely manner and to interview and prepare her is unacceptable and impermissible."

Beatty says he was swamped with more pressing cases. He had several other trials tentatively scheduled to start in the same week as the Skillman case.

"I was concentrating on what I had to concentrate on," he says. "I just don't have time to be meeting with victims months before, even if I'd like to. And in this case, I expected Skillman to accept a plea offer that was on the table."

After Skillman rejected the plea bargain, Beatty says, Skillman's defense attorney, Reginald Cooke, assured him that a postponement of the November 14 trial would be fine.

"You have to be able to trust the other side on these things," Beatty says, "or there's going to be big, big problems."

Big, big problems were right around the bend. Beatty had done little preparation on the rape case. Neither, apparently, had Cooke.

On November 14, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Hertzberg asked the opposing lawyers if they were ready for trial as scheduled. Cooke at first said he was ready to go.

The judge recalls that Beatty expressed surprise, remarking that he'd expected a postponement. But that's as far as the prosecutor went.

"He never said anything about needing more time," Hertzberg says of Beatty. "The dialogue was mostly between me and the defense attorney."

Cooke then tried to backtrack, saying he needed more time to prepare and to interview witnesses. But Hertzberg would hear none of it.

"When there's a firm trial date and the lawyers announce readiness, that's supposed to mean that both sides are ready," the judge says.

Hertzberg had another case starting that day, so the Skillman trial was transferred to Judge I. Sylvan Brown.

It was too late for Beatty to find experts to testify about deaf culture and about how victims of rape may react immediately after the crime.

It also was too late for Beatty to file more than a perfunctory motion asking Judge Brown to allow testimony about Skillman's "prior bad acts"--in this instance, the sexual-abuse allegations that preceded the Kim Bradley incident.

There were other problems: Beatty hadn't even watched the videotape of the Glendale police interview with Kim Bradley, made two days after the alleged rape.

When Kim Bradley's mother learned that the trial of her daughter's alleged rapist would start immediately, she notified Kim, who attends a school in Tucson. Kim and her friend Sharon Singer took a bus to Phoenix.

Glendale detective Jan Whitson says she received a phone call the next morning, November 15, from Beatty's secretary.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...