RICHMOND, Ky. -- When Starna Hill snapped a Christmas morning photo of her husband and their 6-year-old daughter, she did not see the nightmare that would develop.
Ms. Hill didn't notice that her daughter Mira's nightgown was not covering her genitals as she sat on the lap of her father, Dr. David Greene.
When Ms. Hill later mailed the picture as a postcard to thank a 79-year-old Berea, Ky., woman for a Christmas gift, the U.S. postal inspector in Cincinnati confiscated it.
The postal official began an investigation that led to child pornography charges.
During the investigation, authorities questioned the girl about possible abuse and searched the home, confiscating all the photo albums and videotapes in which Mira was pictured.
Moments before jury selection was to begin yesterday, Madison District Judge John Paul Moore dismissed the charges against Ms. Hill, 44, and Dr. Greene, 40, citing insufficient evidence.
A standing-room-only crowd in the courtroom erupted with applause and cheering.
"The anguish this has caused our family and the damage of our reputations were not considered," said Dr. Greene, a physician at the non-profit White House Clinic in McKee, Ky.
If the Madison County, Ky., couple had been convicted of the charge -- distributing material portraying a sexual performance by a minor -- they could have been sentenced to a year in prison.
Dr. Greene and his wife, a former nurse and full-time homemaker, are considering filing a civil suit.
The prosecutor, County Attorney Robert L. Russell, said yesterday that law enforcement officials were justified in pursuing the investigation.
That a grand jury indicted the couple showed that "very close scrutiny" was warranted, he said.
However, he asked that the charge be dismissed after a social worker's conclusions convinced him that the couple's daughter was not abused. ". . . The child is a normal, happy, and well-adjusted child, and the child enjoys a close and loving relationship with her parents," he said in a statement.
Tom Boyd, a Berea College sociology professor and a friend of the family, said the case had been "a travesty of justice. I'm glad it's over."