Jury acquits Terry Haley

March 6, 2013 • Local News

After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Terry Haley on the charges of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and enticement of a child. The accusation stemmed from an incident that took place on Feb. 12, 2010, where Haley allegedly brought a 12-year-old girl into his home and sexually assaulted her.

The victim’s grandmother spoke about the night when Haley took her granddaughter to the movies around 6:30 p.m. She reported that she started calling Haley around 9:30 p.m., but heard nothing until midnight. She confirmed the much-disputed date of the calls, Feb. 12, through her cell phone records. The grandmother also described the child’s subdued demeanor when she returned home that Friday night.

Defense called the victim’s father down from Santa Fe to take the stand to testify about allegations of sexual misconduct made against him during his divorce. He told the court that he believed the allegations were made not by the daughter, but by the girl’s mother.

Haley testified in his own defense, stating that he felt that [auth] organizing trips to visit the church and providing transportation was an important thing to do. He discussed his Sunday routine where he took children to church and to potluck suppers if the church held one, and to McDonald’s if there were no suppers, but only if the children had the permission of their parents.

Haley told the jury that he always took children to the movies in the daytime, rather than at night, and kept an open-door policy with the parents. He reported that he would pay children to help him in his garden “…planting pumpkins and good things you can do outdoors.”

He said the night of the alleged incident, “She did not want to go home.” While she watched TV, he went to shower, changed into sweats and fell asleep.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell told the court that the Roswell Police Department had made a “mess” of collecting evidence. He brought a DNA expert from Santa Fe to testify about checking for body fluids on Haley’s bed cover. Forensic DNA expert Jennifer Otto said when she could find no evidence of fluids, she did not bother to check for DNA.

After Otto’s testimony, Mitchell asked that the case be dismissed due to the fact that exculpatory evidence, or evidence that might have cleared his client, had been denied to him because of the RPD’s handling of the case, citing items such as Haley’s clothes that had not been sent to Santa Fe.

Judge Charles C. Currier commented, “Exculpatory evidence could have been inculpatory (showing a person’s involvement).” However, he agreed to include New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction that states that if evidence was missing from the case it should be considered detrimental to the State’s case.

During final arguments, Hutchins said that the victim had never changed her story in three years time. She repeated what Haley had testified on the stand, that he always asked the parents for permission and notified them if plans changed, and he only took them to daytime events, procedures he did not follow on Feb. 12, when children were supposed to attend the evening movie and did not. The family was not informed of any changes. Neither did he get permission to take the victim to his house after the movie. “He lured her into his home with presents.”

In his closing argument, Mitchell told the jury, “We should have DNA … The great arbiter is DNA. … When one person says one thing and one person says another, then we go to scientific evidence. … There are far, far, far, too many questions and the judgment should be based on evidence, not on guess, speculation and conjecture.”

In her rebuttal, Hutchins said, “Scientific evidence is important … but it is only part of the equation.” She pointed to State witness testimony, collaborated by the victim’s own father, who did not believe that his daughter had ever accused him of sexual abuse. Hutchins also noted that much of the defense was based on the fact that the victim had emotional and mental health issues, which was misleading.

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