By JAMES SWIFT
Opening statements were made by prosecutors and the defense in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday morning for a trial involving a Cartersville mother accused of prostituting her own preteen daughter for $100.
Codefendants Jennifer Lea Short, 38, and Javier Murietta, 43, are each facing one count of trafficking a person for sexual servitude, one count of rape and one count of child molestation stemming from an alleged incident several years ago involving Short’s then 11-year-old daughter.
A bill of indictment alleges the incident occurred sometime between Aug. 11, 2012 and Aug. 10, 2013. On the witness stand, the now 18-year-old alleged victim said the incident occurred during the summer, but could not specify an exact month.
She claimed Murietta slapped her, removed her clothes and held her down on a bed with her hands behind her back and penetrated her.
“It felt like somebody was ripping my insides out,” she recounted.
During the alleged incident, she said her mother remained on the porch of Murietta’s residence off Puritan Street.
Afterwards, she said Murietta gave her mother a $100 bill, which she claims Short later used to purchase marijuana.
Paternity tests revealed that Gallegos impregnated the victim, who at the time was approximately 12 years old.
Jurors were selected for the trial shortly before 5 p.m. Monday.
Short’s public defender James Champlin questioned the alleged victim’s credibility, stating that she has a track record of making false statements to judges and Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) representatives.
“[She] has a bad time telling the truth,” Champlin said to jurors, adding that she has “a history of not being very reliable.”
Murietta’s attorney Chris Cahill described the charges against his client as “outrageous.”
“The fact that this case has gone on so long and taking this long is scary,” he said. “There is no proof in this case. She says it happened, he says it didn’t happen.”
Murietta wore headphones in the courtroom as an interpreter translated the testimony into Spanish.
Forensic interviewer Amanda Tant also took to the witness stand Tuesday afternoon. In interviews with the alleged victim’s younger siblings, Tant said that neither child disclosed abuse, adding that the youngest child told her that Short did not want her to know why Gallegos was in jail.
“He said that they said ‘Don’t tell them nothing,’” Tant said while being cross-examined by Champlin.
Before jurors entered the courtroom, Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge D. Scott Smith informed both the prosecution and the defense that he received a roughly three-pound package containing the alleged victim’s school records Monday evening.
“I was to conduct an in-camera inspection of these documents two and a half hours away from jury selection,” he said, “which the court found was untimely, unreasonable and unwarranted. And the court refused to do it … that is too late of a point in time for the court to conduct a fishing expedition for impeachable material.”
Judge Smith said the State has two remaining witnesses and that he expects the prosecution to close its case today. The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m.
Both Short and Murietta have the right to provide testimony after the State rests its case.
“At that point in time it will become your opportunity to present evidence if you choose to do so,” Smith told the codefendants. “If you choose to not testify, the court will instruct this jury that they cannot use the fact that you did not testify in anyway hurtful or harmful against you in consideration of this case.”