Deliberation continues Monday in incest case
by Shaka S. Lias
Dec 19, 2010 | 4441 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After two days of testimony in the Jonathan Bacchus child molestation case, both sides rested Friday afternoon.

Assistant District Attorney Jana Allen said throughout the whole trial she pondered on what she could do.

"What can I do to convince the jury of guilt and get justice for these three girls," Allen said in her closing arguments.

Wiping away tears Allen said she often thought of her 3-year-old daughter during the trial. She said the victims -- now ages 7, 9 and 12 -- have been taken advantage of and destroyed, adding she thinks they will recover.

Allen said it hit her that she can't convince the jury but the girls can do it through their testimonies. Repeating some of the statements, Allen told the jury that "the things you heard in the past few days cannot be coached."

Anton Rowe, attorney for the accused, said the state is asking for justice and so is the defense.

"We're seeking a verdict based on facts and evidence and not based on emotions," he said.

Rowe said he doesn't deny that this is an emotional trial.

"We can't come to a decision based on sympathy; we have to look at the evidence presented in this court," he said.

Rowe said the victims were coached. "Someone told her what to say," he said during closing arguments.

He asked the jury to look at the evidence and understand burden of proof. "If doubt is reasonable acquit him on each and every count," he said.

Jonathan Bacchus was indicted in May 2009 on numerous charges, including rape, child molestation, incest and cruelty to children.

According to the indictment, Bacchus allegedly molested and had sexual intercourse with blood relatives. The incident involved three different relatives over a lengthy time period. Cartersville police became aware of the allegations on April 16, 2009, when they were alerted by a case worker from the Department of Family and Children Services.

According to court testimony from a relative of the victims, one of the girls, who was 5 years old at the time, came to her on April 13, 2009, and told her of the abuse.

The witness testified that the child provided details of the molestations. She said she was shocked by the allegation and asked her to repeat it and she did.

"She said the exact same thing," the witness said.

She testified that the 5-year-old told her that her sister said the same thing happened. "(Another victim) said the same thing happened to her and next time hit him with a pan," she testified.

The witness said she confronted Bacchus who was in another room and he denied it.

Together they talked to the other two victims who admitted they too had been molested.

The jury heard testimonies from each alleged victim; however, the courtroom was cleared when the 7- and 9-year-olds took the stand at the request of the attorneys because of their age.

The third victim, now 12 years old, testified that Bacchus engaged in sexual intercourse with her from ages 7 to 12. She testified that the molestation stopped in November 2008 when she started her menstrual cycle.

Many witnesses were called to testify, including the pastor of Bacchus' church, who described Bacchus as an active member of the church. He was a deacon, member of the choir and president of Anointed Men of God. Bacchus has since left the church.

He also testified that he knew the victims well. When asked by Assistant District Attorney Suzeanne Brookshire if he would believe their testimony under oath, the pastor replied yes.

"They are very honest children," he said.

Dr. Catherine Fields, a local pediatrician, also testified. She said she received a call of possible sexual abuse and cleared her appointments to examine the victims. Fields testified that the victims have been her patients for years. She also testified that she is not an expert in sexual abuse, which is why she referred them to Scottish Rite in Atlanta to be examine by an expert.

Rebecca Bentley, director of A Better Way Children's Advocacy, testified Friday afternoon that the victims came to her center April 21. Bentley, who is also a forensic interviewer, testified that she talked with each victim separately.

She showed the victims pictures of male and female anatomy and asked them to circle the areas that had been touched.

"The older the kids get they start to realize their body is theirs and that it's not okay," Bentley said.

In addition to her testimony, the original interviews from each victim were played.

The 5-year-old victim said during the interview, "He said not to tell anyone, but I didn't want to listen to him."

Wrapping up the testimonies, the defense called character witnesses on behalf of Bacchus.

Many were church members from Wright Street Baptist Church in Marietta, where Bacchus had been attending. They testified that he has a good reputation in the church and throughout the community.

Bacchus also took the stand. He denies ever touching any of the victims sexually. He testified that he had never been alone with any of the victims and that he doesn't know where these allegations are coming from.

The jury began deliberations around 4 p.m. Friday before returning to the courtroom after 5. Judge Shepherd L. Howell asked the jury if they wanted to continue or come back Monday. They opted to return Monday. Judge Howell dismissed them with instructions to report to the jury room at 9 a.m.