Child abuse case in Clarksville may be dropped Parents don't want to subject children to cross-examination

July 02, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County prosecutors are expected to announce today that Sandra A. Craig will not be tried a second time on charges that she abused children at a preschool she once operated in Clarksville.

None of the parents involved in the 12 child abuse cases pending against Mrs. Craig has indicated an interest in having their children testify, according to prosecutors in the county state's attorney's office who preferred to remain anonymous.

Mrs. Craig was convicted in 1987 of sexually and physically abusing a 6-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but her conviction was later overturned by the appellate courts.

One parent involved in the case said she would not subject her child to a retrial because she feared aggressive questioning by defense lawyers would traumatize the child, who appears to TC have put the incident behind her.

The decision not to re-try Mrs. Craig, who operated Craig's Country Pre-School, follows a series of appellate court decisions in her favor.

Two years after Mrs. Craig's conviction, Maryland's Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, saying Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. did not follow proper procedures in allowing children to testify via closed-circuit television.

The judge should have interviewed the children to determine whether they would be traumatized by confronting Mrs. Craig, as expert witnesses suggested, before deciding whether to allow closed-circuit testimony, the court ruled.

The state appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June 1990 ruled that states can shield child-abuse victims from testifying in open court if the judge makes a specific finding that it is necessary.

The justices did not insist that a trial judge should interview the children before allowing closed-circuit testimony, and they sent the Craig case back to the Court of Appeals for a review.

However, in April, the state court upheld its decision to reverse Mrs. Craig's conviction, saying that even though an interview with the judge may not be constitutionally required, it should be "the rule rather than the exception" under Maryland law.

That left the issue of a retrial in the hands of the county state's attorney's office at a time when the local Circuit Court is overwhelmed with cases. In addition, prosecutors said a re-trial presents problems because the children could have a lapse of memory about events that go back to 1984.

Mrs. Craig, who has said in recent interviews that she is unemployed and living in New Jersey, has maintained her innocence throughout the proceedings.

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