Accused child rapist challenges victim’s video interview
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
A Maryville man accused of raping a 6-year-old girl is asking a judge not to allow a videotaped interview with the victim to be shown to a jury.
A preliminary hearing was held in Judge Tammy Harrington’s courtroom in Blount County Circuit Court Tuesday for Jaron Lee Goodson, 23, Highway 411 South, to determine whether the interview is admissible as evidence.
The video, which was shown in court, featured the young victim being interviewed by Christina Copeland, a forensic interviewer with the New Hope Child Advocacy Center.
In the video, Copeland asked about the girl’s family and their living arrangements, which led to a line of questioning concerning what happened with Goodson.
The girl gave some brief graphic details of her encounter. “He said, ‘Don’t tell,’” the girl said in the video. “I was scared.”
Assistant District Attorney Clinton Frazier and Goodson’s attorney, Blount County District Public Defender Mack Garner, questioned Copeland on her forensic interviewing background as well as techniques in her interviewing process as she took the stand.
“I try not to embarrass them, but I do try to tell them to be specific,” Copeland said.
Garner requested filing a constitutional challenge of state statute 24-7-123, concerning the admission of video recordings of interviews of a child describing sexual conduct.
The statute states, “Notwithstanding any provision of this part to the contrary, a video recording of an interview of a child by a forensic interviewer containing a statement made by the child under thirteen (13) years of age describing any act of sexual contact performed with or on the child by another is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant in evidence at the trial of the person for any offense arising from the sexual contact if the requirements of this section are met.”
Both Garner and Frazier agreed that Copeland was qualified and credible enough to interview the child, but Garner questioned whether there was evidence to back up the child’s claim, and the timing of when the act supposedly occurred.
Garner’s request was granted by Harrington with Frazier’s approval, but the judge said after viewing the video that the child seemed to appreciate the difference between the truth and a lie, and had the appropriate mental maturity of a child her age. The hearing on the constitutional challenge is set for Sept. 19 in Harrington’s courtroom.
An official trial date was also set for Oct. 2.
Goodson was taken into custody on Oct. 19 last year, and was being held in the Blount County Detention Facility in lieu of a $50,000 bond on a charge of rape of child.
According to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office report, the girl told her baby sitter in mid-August of last year that she did not like visiting with Goodson. When the sitter asked her why, the girl said Goodson told her she could not tell anyone.
The sitter went on to discover that Goodson allegedly “puts his boy parts on her girl parts,” the report states.
When sheriff’s deputies questioned the girl’s mother, she said the child had spent time with Goodson a couple of times each week over the past few months. The incidents were determined to date back at least three months, the report said.
The mother told deputies she has never observed any visible injuries on her daughter’s body, according to the report. Deputies then attempted to contact Goodson at a motel on Highway 411 South, where he was believed to be staying, but were unable to locate him until he was taken into custody.