The trial of accused child molester, Concord school teacher, Joseph Martin, is coming close to the end. The prosecution has evidence they have presented to the jury that the teacher: had searches on his home computer for “child porn,” confided to a church prayer group for men with sexual problems that he fantasized about young boys, and has numerous young boys accusing him of touching their groins and bare chests.
The news articles made mention that he took the stand to try to discuss and give explanations and excuses for various pieces of evidence. The teacher admitted to giving pats and hugs—many teachers innocently do this. But he also admitted kissing one boy on the cheek after his sibling died, and then admitted that he violated a school district order mandating that he not have any physical contact with another student or ever be alone with him. He admitted violating the mandate.
I believe Mr. Martin is making a huge mistake in taking the stand to try and explain away his accusers. There is no physical evidence, there are just accusations. Of wrongful touching. The touching could be seen as innocent, or as unlawful. Rarely, in my experience, do accused child molesters get any empathy from juries, and instead they get vilified, as he is now in the media. You should see his mug shot. Of course, no attorney can force a client to take the stand, and we often encourage clients not to, because when they get attacked by a skilled District Attorney, their own words can be used against them. So Mr. Martin has decided he would be better off trying to convince the jury of his innocence. The mistake is that the jury will now see his demeanor, see him sweat under steady, skilled cross-examination attacks, and they may use his honest discomfort from cross-examination as a sign of guilt. It’s a big mistake. By not testifying, Martin could have allowed a skilled trial attorney to argue that this accusation, these accusations, were all misunderstandings of young, impressionable students. You can argue and discuss the evidence as presented to the jury to try and focus attention on what is missing, instead of what’s there. But when your client testifies, and if he made mistakes on the stand, it’s very hard to undo that during a closing argument at the end of a trial. We will see what happens when the jury reaches a verdict.