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ODOR IN THE COURT

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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.

"I get a 911 call that the Skillman case is starting at 9:30," Whitson recalls. "I ask, 'What Skillman case, number one or number two?' She doesn't know. I finally learn that it's [Kim's] case. 'Oh, boy.'"

Beatty met with Kim and her family for the first time on November 15, for about 30 minutes. During the meeting, he learned about Sharon Singer--the friend in whom Kim had tearfully confided an hour or so after the alleged assault.

Although Sharon was waiting for her friend in a lobby a few feet away, Beatty, remarkably, never said a word to her. Beatty avows he wouldn't have called Sharon even if Judge Brown would have let him.

"The jury either was going to believe [Kim] or not believe her," Beatty says. "The case was about consent, not what she was telling a friend later. It was a tactical decision. If a jury wanted to convict, they would have, with or without the friend's testimony."

As it was, it was far too late for the prosecution to add her to its list of witnesses. The judge, however, says he might have granted a postponement if Beatty had pushed the right buttons.

"The prosecutor had to offer the girl [Sharon] as a witness," Brown says. "She's admissible as hell, and probably important, but he never asked to get her in. You certainly can't spring witnesses on the defense, and I would have had to give them time to interview her. I can't say how I would have ruled, but there could have been grounds for a [postponement]."

Beatty was unprepared on two other fronts:
He didn't have an expert ready to testify about Kim's behavior, both as a deaf person and as an alleged victim of rape. And it was too late to present a compelling argument that the judge should allow testimony about Skillman's alleged "prior bad acts."

"If an expert will truly assist the jury in understanding what happened," Judge Brown says, "then they testify. In this case, it could have been important for a jury to know how a deaf person may react in certain social situations, how they may be younger than their age group even if their intelligence level is high."

Brown has a reputation for not allowing prosecutors to present testimony of "prior bad acts" unless the evidence is most compelling. But the judge says he would have been interested in hearing Beatty's arguments on the subject, had they been filed in a timely manner.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin