Volume 104, Number 7 - February 15, 2007
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Not guilty verdict in abuse case
After three days of testimony and roughly two hours of deliberation, the jury in the case of the State of Wyoming v. Robert Griffin delivered a verdict of not guilty.
The prosecution, chiefly conducted by Mike Crosson, tried to characterize Griffin as a child molester who improperly touched a young girl twice and then tried to convince her to keep the incident a secret. The child’s physical and mental health deteriorated from this abuse; she began to wet her pants, complained of frequent stomach aches and could not perform simple tasks, like buttoning her pants, the prosecution alleged.
The defense, led by Vaughn Neubauer, argued the child’s family accused Griffin of abuse because he stopped working for one family member’s house moving business, and moved in with his girlfriend, Lisa Siems, of whom the family disapproved. Siems testified Griffin’s mother refused to shake her hand during a church service, snapping “don’t you dare,” as Siems extended her hand.
Neubauer also called the child’s father to the stand. The father acknowledged a methamphetamine addiction that caused him to be estranged from his arrested and imprisoned for 120 days.
Griffin then took the stand in his own defense. Under direct examination, he described working “90 hours a week” for the family, receiving no payment beyond room and board and accommodations for his horses.
He firmly denied abusing the child, and when Neubauer asked why she made such allegations, Griffin replied, “Jealousy.” He said he thought she had a crush on him, and was influenced by her family.
In his cross-examination of Griffin, Crosson tried to discredit the defendant. He challenged his characterization of the family and the work environment. Crosson asked if he considered himself a voluntary worker. Griffin replied “Not really,” characterizing the family as “very controlling.”
Crosson brought up the testimony of detective K.C. Lehr, who interrogated Griffin in January of 2006. During that interview, the prosecution alleged, Griffin wavered when asked if he had molested the child, making statements like “I don’t usually do that.” Griffin testified he gave ambiguous statements to the detective because of his shock and confusion over the allegations.
In his closing statement, which included a Power Point presentation, Crosson went over the testimony of school employees and doctors. William Heineke, a psychologist, had diagnosed the child as a victim of sexual abuse.
Crosson disputed the defense’s position that the allegations were a trumped up-campaign to seek revenge on Griffin for leaving the family and the business. The prosecutor said the idea that the family used the child as its “sword-bearer” was false.
Neubauer argued the girl’s psychological problems were likely the result of her father’s methamphetamine abuse, and the discrepancies between the allegations and her testimony under cross examination called her credibility into question.
She “cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy,” Neubauer charged. He then compared the allegations against Griffin to the Salem witch trials of the seventeenth century.
Shortly after the jury delivered its verdict, Crosson notified County Attorney Ralph Boynton of his informal resignation. He plans to leave the Sublette County Attorney’s Office when his services are no longer required. He said his decision to resign was based on several factors, adding it had nothing to do with his co-workers.
“We have a wonderful working environment, and I think the world of everyone here,” Crosson said.
Crosson was reluctant to disclose his opinion of the verdict, but offered one statement for the record.
“I’m not sure I can say anything to the paper that wouldn’t get me in trouble with the bar [association],” he said.
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