Originally Published: August 10, 2018 4:07 p.m.
Updated as of Friday, August 10, 2018 9:17 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: To read more on Chantry taking the stand Friday, Aug. 10, click here.
After nearly two weeks of testimony, the state rested its case Aug. 8 in the trial of a former Prescott pastor charged with multiple accounts of child molestation.
The trial of Thomas Chantry, a former pastor at the Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, began on July 24 and is expected to last up to four weeks. State prosecutor Susan Eazer began by calling alleged victims and their parents to the stand to detail what they say were patterns of sexual abuse.
Chantry’s attorney, John Sears, requested acquittal of his client citing Rule 20, which deals with aggravating factors of the state failing to meet a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Judge Bradley Astrowsky denied the motion.
‘Memory is a belief of what happened’
The defense presented video testimony Thursday of Deborah Davis, a social psychology professor at the University of Nevada-Reno. According to her website, Davis has done research on witness memory, false confessions and issues of sexual consent.
Davis testified that details of memories from childhood are not always clear. “If you get further from the event, the original memory starts to fade,” she said.
She also noted that memories can be influenced by new people and new information. She cited examples of cases in which witnesses talk to each other, and therefore influence one another.
In her testimony, Davis said memory follows the focus of attention.
“Life experience leads them to interpret what they see,” she said.
She cited research concerning “honest false memories,” where a person recalls something that did not happen, but they still believe it did. Davis continued, “Memory is a belief of what happened.”
During a cross-examination, it was revealed that Davis has often appeared as an expert witness on the subject of memory since 2003. She also said that she has been retained only by defense teams in these cases, although she has served as a consultant for prosecuting counsels.
According to Davis, she was paid $3,000 for her video testimony.
Eazer further grilled Davis on her definition of rape. “I don’t view all sexual abuse a violent crime of rape,” Davis said. “I think it is a crime but it’s not always violent.”
She continued by citing research saying that sexual abuse is not always traumatic.
It was revealed that Davis has never interviewed a child of sexual abuse in her career.
‘Tom asked for [his] forgiveness’
The defense called Don Lindblad, a Seattle-area pastor with the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches, to the stand to talk about his relationship with Chantry and events centering on a phone conversation Chantry had with one of the alleged victims.
Lindblad, who said he is a friend of Chantry, testified that one of the alleged victims tried to contact Chantry. “Initially, [Chantry] was hesitant,” he said. “He asked if I would contact [the alleged victim], which I did.”
Lindblad said Chantry agreed to have a phone conversation with the alleged victim and Lindblad listened in. He said the phone conversation strictly concerned spankings that happened during tutoring sessions, adding that there was no mention of bare-bottom spankings or molestations.
“[The alleged victim] indicated that he would like resolution,” he said. “Tom asked for [his] forgiveness. [The alleged victim] gave him forgiveness.”
During a cross-examination, Eazer cited notes that Lindblad had taken during the phone conversation noting that the alleged victim did not challenge Chantry’s recollection of events.
Eazer’s questioning got more heated during the cross-examination. She later said during jury dismissal that Lindblad was purposefully evading her questions. The judge agreed but also threatened to report Eazer to the Arizona State Bar for “invoking Christianity to get him to answer questions.”
“You crossed the line,” he said. “We will not invoke religion and connect it under such veracity.”
Eazer defended her action citing the Lindblad’s position in the church and whether he would bend the truth.
“This wouldn’t be appropriate in any other case,” she said.
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