As the jury deliberates the fate of a Sitka couple accused of molesting three young girls, an alternate juror said she would have voted for a conviction.
Girls continue detailing alleged abuse at hands of Sitka couple (May 17, 2002)
Girls detail alleged abuse at hands of Sitka couple (May 16, 2002)
Accused molesters may question girls on the stand (May 16, 2002)
Sitka sex abuse trial begins in Juneau (May 14, 2002)
The jury began its deliberations about 3 p.m. Monday and had not reached a verdict in the 41-count case by mid-day today.
Fourteen jurors heard the trial of Cynthia Sky and Dick Blue Sky, 12 who will decide case and two alternates who will not. The alternates did not know they would be released from duty until after closing arguments.
One alternate juror, who declined to give her name, said Monday she believed the young witnesses' stories of abuse.
"Yeah, kids can lie and yeah, they can come up with some pretty terrible things, but they can't maintain it for a long period of time, and certainly not for 15 months," said the juror.
The Skys, who were arrested Feb. 15, 2001, face 33 counts of felony first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of felony exploitation of a child. Blue Sky is charged with seven additional counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor, a felony.
The charges against the couple stem from alleged multiple acts of sex abuse against three girls, who ranged in age from 3 to 13 when the alleged abuse took place from 1994 to 2001 in Sitka and on Bauer Island, 50 miles north of Sitka.
Defense Attorneys Darrel Gardner and Sidney Billingslea did not present a closing argument to the jury, saying they were unable to mount an adequate defense because the Skys refused to talk to them about the case until May 13, the day the trial was set to start.
Dick Blue Sky gave a brief statement to the jury Monday afternoon.
"There are two sides to every story, and you've only been able to hear one side," he said. "It hasn't been intentional, but we do have a side. I can't tell you why we weren't allowed to present our side. But I appreciate your tolerance."
District Attorney Rick Svobodny told jurors in his closing argument that the only reason to find the Skys innocent is if they didn't believe the testimony of the girls who said they were victimized.
He cited 10 reasons for believing the girls, including physical evidence, such as sexual devices and notes found on Bauer Island; medical evidence consistent with long-term sexual abuse; and the fact that the girls had no reason to lie.
"Which person in this courtroom thinks it was fun for these girls to come here and talk about these things?" Svobodny asked. "They had to go through many steps. They had to tell their mothers. ... They had no motive to create this miserable existence for themselves. ... Each of those little girls had to go through a physical exam. Was it starting to get fun for them then? Is that why they would come here and lie?"
The alternate juror said she kept an open mind throughout the proceedings and reflected on other trials in which suspected child molesters later had their convictions thrown out. She also said she thought it would have been "absolutely horrible" and a "horrible precedent to set for children who testify" if the defendants had cross-examined the girls, which the judge ruled they could do.
The Skys originally were charged with 48 felony counts.
The judge dismissed four felony first-degree sexual abuse of a minor charges Monday because the prosecution failed to present evidence to support the charges and a kidnapping charge brought by a Sitka grand jury last year never was brought to trial because Svobodny said no evidence existed to support the charge.
Once this trial has ended, Svobodny said the judge will set a date for trial on a felony weapons charge against Dick Blue Sky. As a convicted felon, Blue Sky can't own a firearm, and according to court records, guns were found in his possession on Bauer Island. This charge was part of the original indictment against Blue Sky but was not introduced to jurors because it would have let them know about a 1988 sex abuse of a minor conviction in Kalispell, Mont.
Blue Sky also may face one count of failure to register as a sex offender, if the Alaska Supreme Court rules the state can prosecute offenders convicted before 1994 who do not register. The court will hear that case in October.
If convicted, the Skys could get up to 30 years in prison for each count of sexual abuse of a minor and up to 10 years in prison for each exploitation of a minor count.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.