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Prosecutor wants to show taped interviews with child sex abuse victims during teacher's trial

Diane Graham is accused of failing to report abuse

(File photo) Diane Graham (left) looks on as her attorney Mark Brown (right) answers a question from Associate Judge Russell Keast (center) during a hearing for a motion to dismiss at Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Graham faces a charge of failing to report child abuse. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) Diane Graham (left) looks on as her attorney Mark Brown (right) answers a question from Associate Judge Russell Keast (center) during a hearing for a motion to dismiss at Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Graham faces a charge of failing to report child abuse. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A prosecutor is asking a judge to allow videotaped interviews of three children, who were sexually abused by a 15-year-old boy, to be played during the trial of a Marion teacher accused of failing to report the abuse in her classroom last year.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Andrew Powers plans to play the St. Luke’s Child Protection Center interviews of two 5-year-old girls and one 6-year-old girl during the Nov. 6 trial for Diane Graham, 59, charged with failing to report child abuse as a mandatory reporter, a simple misdemeanor.

The children in the interviews provide details of the abuse by Logan McMurrin, then 15, a classroom volunteer who was convicted this year in Linn County Juvenile Court of sexually abusing the three children.

A criminal complaint states two Starry Elementary school children in Graham’s class, on two occasions, told Graham about incidents involving McMurrin in 2016.

Graham, who is on administrative leave, failed to report the children’s disclosures to law enforcement or to the Department of Human Services personnel, according to the complaint.

As a teacher, Graham is a mandatory reporter of child abuse according to Iowa law that requires any licensed school employee to report abuse against a child younger than 12 within 24 hours.

Mark Brown, Graham’s lawyer, resists the state’s motion and is asking the court to not allow the tapes to be played at trial. Brown argues the tapes are not direct evidence and unreliable hearsay because the interviews are directed or assisted by law enforcement for its purpose of leading to arrest.

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Brown, in his motion, said the tapes are not admissible at trial unless the child witness also testifies, according to law.

Allowing the videotaped interviews — which were conducted by Rachel Haskins, a forensic interviewer, on Oct. 27 and Oct. 31, 2016, and June 12 of this year — doesn’t violate Graham’s rights because the witnesses will be available for her lawyer to cross-examine, Powers said in his motion.

He argues that the video statements meet requirements under law and the jury can observe for themselves their demeanor, how the questions were asked by the interviewer and what the children said.

Sixth Judicial Associate District Judge Casey Jones set a hearing on the motions for Oct. 19. The trial remains set for Nov. 6 in Tama County Associate District Court. The trial was moved to Tama based on pretrial publicity involving the case, McMurrin’s case and lawsuits filed against Graham and the Marion Independent School District.

McMurrin, now 16, was convicted of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse against the three children. He was sentenced to the Iowa State Training School for Boys in Eldora. He will remain there at least until he is 18.

Graham and the Marion Independent School District face four separate lawsuits filed last February by eight parents, claiming their children were subjected to sexual abuse and psychological and emotional injuries and pain.

In June, the Marion Police Department said it was investigating new claims of abuse that occurred in a classroom at Starry Elementary.

Police said the abuse took place in the 2015-2016 school year, which could indicate the allegations are separate from those involving the three girls sexually abused by McMurrin.

If convicted, Graham faces up to a $625 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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