A Miller County jury is expected to hear closing arguments this morning in the trial of a man accused of molesting a male relative more than a decade ago.
Michael David Lee Walker, 32, faces a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted of misconduct with a relative who is now 18. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Robertson rested the state's case Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday the jury of eight men and four women heard testimony from defense witnesses and from two witnesses who testified on rebuttal for the state.
The alleged victim's mother testified Wednesday that she does not believe the allegations are true. The mother said her son might be angry at Walker because he hit him several years ago and denied that Walker had access to the boy during the time he was allegedly abused at ages 5, 6, or 7. The mother said Walker did not visit her home during that time because he and her husband, from whom she is now divorced, did not get along. The mother said her three children were rarely out of her sight as children.
Under cross examination by Robertson, the mother testified that the alleged victim and one of his older brothers, were removed from her custody by child welfare officials in October 2015. The mother admitted to being a convicted felon but denied having ever been "strung out" on drugs. The mother denied she was motivated to support Walker by a family member's threat to withdraw financial support if she did not.
Later in the day, Robertson called Rachael Speights, a supervisor with Arkansas Department of Human Services, to testify as a rebuttal witness. Speights testified that she was asked by Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children division to conduct a safety study of the alleged victim's home. ASP and the Miller County Sheriff's Office became involved in the case after an initial call to police Aug. 6, 2015, witnesses testified.
Speights said she made an "emergency removal" of the alleged victim and his brother because the mother refused to submit to a drug screening, because the mother admitted to using drugs, because of the condition of the home and because the children were not attending school. Speights testified that DHS has closed cases concerning the alleged victim's mother in the past that did not result in a removal of the children. The mother and Speights testified that the mother was removed from her own mother's custody while a minor and was in foster care when she gave birth to the alleged victim and one of his two brothers. Speights testified that the mother told her in October 2015 that her three children had been in her mother's custody until recently, contradicting the mother's assertion that she had been with the children throughout their childhoods. Under questioning from Anderson, Speights testified that it is possible that the mother was around her children during their childhoods even though her mother actually had legal custody of them.
Speights testified that the alleged victim chose to remain in foster care when given a choice to return home in January of this year.
Under questioning from Anderson, The alleged victim's brother, one year older, and an aunt testified that they do not believe the allegations. Under questioning from Robertson, the brother admitted he told Walker he intended to "beat the f*** out of (the alleged victim)," if he did not make the right "choice" and drop the sexual abuse allegations. The alleged victim testified Tuesday that his family has threatened to sever contact with him if he testified at Walker's trial.
The last witness to testify was called by Robertson as a rebuttal witness for the state. Miller County detective Patsy DeHart testified that the mother made the call Aug. 6, 2015, to 911 that launched the investigation into Walker. DeHart said that on that day, the mother was crying, upset and cooperative. DeHart's last statement led Anderson to ask Circuit Judge Carlton Jones to declare a mistrial.
"And she told us about other victims," DeHart said.
While there are criminal charges pending against Walker in Miller County concerning the alleged sexual abuse of two female relatives, those allegations cannot be mentioned during the guilt/innocence phase of trial as they could unfairly prejudice the jury against Walker in deciding if he is guilty of abusing the alleged male victim. Jones denied the motion for a mistrial but instructed the jury to disregard DeHart's comment.
Jones instructed the jury to return to court this morning to hear closing arguments before beginning their deliberations. Walker faces 25 to 40 years or life if convicted of rape and up to six years in prison if found guilty of sexual indecency with a child. If the jury finds Walker guilty of either crime, the trial will enter a second phase. During the punishment phase, the state and defense may call witnesses meant to aid them in determining what punishment Walker should receive. A verdict in the case is expected today.