Judge declares mistrial in assault case
MIFFLINTOWN – A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the case against a man charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with an 8-year-old girl in 1996.
David Graham is charged with several counts of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault and corruption of minors.
The mistrial was triggered by direct testimony by the alleged victim’s mother, who stated her son may also have been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of the defendant.
President Judge Kathy A. Morrow immediately excused the jury from the courtroom and she began to review the transcript of the testimony. Morrow then went to her chambers, reappearing 20 minutes later to address defense attorney Nevin Zimmerman’s motion for a mistrial.
Zimmerman said the statement made by the mother of the alleged victim “polluted” the jury and that asking the jury to disregard the testimony was unrealistic.
“Can’t pretend you didn’t hear that,” Zimmerman said.
Juniata County District Attorney Cory Snook said instructing the jury to disregard that particular statement and informing them that the son has never made allegations of sexual abuse, would be sufficient.
Morrow granted the mistrial and said it was not something she treated lightly.
As Morrow announced her decision, the now 25-year-old victim stormed out of court visibly upset and was quickly followed by some of her family.
Following adjournment Snook was asked if he planned to retry the case, to which he responded “absolutely.”
Unlike its rare and unusual ending, the trial began like most jury trials do, with opening statements from the attorneys who laid out their respective arguments.
Snook said during opening statements that the case will essentially come down to whether or not the jurors believe the alleged victim.
“Keep in mind how difficult it is for (the alleged victim) to come forward,” Snook said.
Snook told the jury they could convict the defendant solely on the testimony of the alleged victim if they believed she was credible witness.
“Is there a valid reason for her to make this up?” Snook asked the jury to contemplate.
“Use your collective life experience … use your common sense,” Snook added in addressing the jury.
Zimmerman asked the jury to avoid any fixed opinions regarding his defendant until they had heard all the testimony.
Zimmerman also asked the jury to maintain focus and keep any other sexual assault cases in the news from swaying their verdict.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Gary Wolfe testified he took the alleged victim’s initial statement in November 2011.
Wolfe testified the alleged victim reported the abuse took place twice a month for a period of a year when she was eight years old.
The alleged victim also took the stand and was at times very emotional, but remained stoic in her responses to questions from the attorneys.
She testified there were at least three incidents she could recall when Graham touched her inappropriately. She said the abuse eventually ended and she was told by Graham not to tell anyone, which she didn’t for a number of years.
Graham remains free on $10,000 unsecured bail. A new trial date has not been set.