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Tennessee Victims

Jan 07, 2008
A convenience store surveillance tape has led to the arrest of a 27-year old for brutally assaulting his girlfriend's 19-month old son. Detroit police released part of the tape, showing the suspect kicking and stepping on the toddler, then slamming his head into a glass cooler door. "When the video aired, our department was flooded with tips," says James Tate, a police spokesman. The Detroit Free Press reports that Joseph Gray has admitted he is the person in the video. Gray has been charged with second- and third-degree child abuse.

Man Charged in Kids' Dog-Collar Shock, Rape

Tenn. Man Allegedly Used Electric Dog Collar on Children as Stepmother Watched

Tennessee husband and wife Wayne and Rebecca Burkhart were arrested in September. Wayne Burkhart faces two counts of aggravated child assault and two counts of rape. Rebecca Burkhart was charged with aggravated child neglect and failing to report child abuse. (Claiborne County Sheriff's Office )

Wayne Burkhart Jr., 38, and his wife, Rebecca, 35, were in court yesterday as Claiborne County Judge Robert Estep ruled that the case should go before a grand jury.

"We're pleased with yesterday's results, and we feel the judge's decision was consistent with the evidence," Claiborne County Assistant District Attorney Jared Effler told ABC News.

Burkhart's 17-year-old daughter told authorities in a Sept. 10 interview that she had been sexually and physically abused by her father, according to the complaint affidavit. "Among other things, her father [the defendant] uses dog collars equipped with electric shock to train his hunting dogs, and that he uses the collar on her to shock her and her 19-year-old sister," the affidavit reads.

The teen told authorities her father used the shock collar on her Sept. 9 "because he was mad at her for going out with a boy."

The teen also said that her mother had witnessed this and that her father typically put the collar around her midcalf to shock her. The girl's siblings, 15, 11 and 13, corroborated the account, according to the court documents.

Both teens showed investigators bruises consistent with an electric dog collar and the girl also said that her father held a shotgun to her head and said that if she "ever told anyone, he would kill himself, her and anyone who tried to remove her from his home," the affidavit reads.

Burkhart's children also said that their stepmother, Rebecca Burkhart, had been present when the dog collar was used. "At none of these times," the affidavit reads, "did [Rebecca Burkhart] attempt to call law enforcement or seek medical treatment for her stepdaughter

Wednesday, 02/01/06 Grand jury to hear injured infant case By Patricia Lynch Kimbro Staff Writer
The parents of an infant whose right leg was broken were bound over Friday to the February term of the Dickson County grand jury. Anthony Barker, 32, of Vanleer is charged with aggravated child abuse and remains in the Dickson County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond. His wife, Summar Barker, 22, is charged with accessory after the fact and is free on a $2,000 bond.
 Anthony Barker had previously told investigators he was changing his son’s diaper sometime between 10 p.m. Jan. 2 and 2 a.m. Jan. 3 when he grabbed and twisted the then 3-week-old baby’s right leg, causing a break. Dickson County authorities were notified about the incident Jan. 4 after officials at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital called the Department of Children’s Services to investigate the case.
Testimony showed Anthony Barker spent a couple of years in jail on another child abuse charge a few years ago in which the 7-month-old infant of a former girlfriend was injured while in his care. Deborah Stacy of Waverly is the mother of that child. Stacy was in court Friday, but did not testify. After the court proceedings she told The Dickson Herald that she was surprised when she heard about the latest incident involving Anthony Barker. “I honestly thought he would have changed. I thought he had changed,” Stacy said. Stacy said her son, who is now five years old, is autistic and blind in his right eye. She said the doctors have been unable to determine whether it was due to the shaking at the hands of Anthony Barker. “My son had three subdural hematomas to his brain and a compressed disc and a detached retina in his right eye. He’s been diagnosed as developmentally disabled and autistic. But they (the doctors) can’t verify if it was directly related to the incident of shaking. But my son had no prior symptoms before that happened,” Stacy said. The incident occurred in October 2000, she said. Barker served two years in jail and was in the community corrections program when the latest incident occurred.
When initially questioned by investigators on the latest incident, Anthony Barker, according to Dickson County Sheriff’s Detective John Patterson, did not immediately admit he had done anything to his child. He also did not mention the prior incident involving Stacy’s child until later, testimony revealed. But later at the sheriff’s office during interrogation, Anthony Barker admitted that he knew Patterson due to his prior time in jail, according to testimony.

Rest In Peace

In Nashville, Tenn. Aja Westbrooks, 21, and her live-in boyfriend, Larry Cook II, 19, were charged with one count of aggravated child abuse and one count of aggravated child neglect for the death of  her 31-month-old son, Anthony Westbrooks.

Anthony’s injuries included brain damage and bruising. . Cook claims that Anthony fell down the stairs, and he tried to revive the little boy when he stopped breathing. However, doctors and the police felt this was that this was a case of child abuse.

 In 2004 when he was seven months old, Anthony was removed from his mother's r custody when it was discovered he had a broken bone in his leg. However, Westbrooks petitioned the court and  to regained custody of Anthony in May 2005.


Finally this little boy is safe, his abusive  father has given up his parental rights.
The 4-year-old boy went in for a checkup and a pediatrician thought something was wrong.

The pediatrician said the boy may have been exposed to inappropriate sexual behavior while on weekend visits with his father.

The pediatrician referred the case to a therapist who agreed and referred the case to a psychologist who also agreed.

A police investigation began and police agreed that the boy appeared to be sexually abused when visiting his father.

Butler said her family asked Wilson County Circuit Court Judge Clara Byrd to cease visitations and order the father to take a lie detector test and undergo psychosexual evaluation.

Butler said Byrd wanted to talk to the child. Butler said Byrd conducted a 10 minute interview with the child in her chambers.

“When she came out, I think her words were, ‘OK, call off the dogs, call off the psychologists, call off the therapists. You attorneys call off your CVSA testing for tomorrow because this didn’t happen,’” Butler said.

After the meeting, Byrd decided to continue the father's visitation and discredit the Department of Children’s Services investigation.

“I left there with a sense of ‘What is she thinking? Why would you not try and protect this child?’” Butler said.

That was January of 2005. In August of 2005, the Butlers were back in court for a custody hearing.

The Butlers produced two experts that said the child appeared to have been sexually abused.

The father didn’t have any expert witnesses, and Byrd gave the father full custody of the child.

Butler said she was helpless and was just trying to protect the child, but that there was no way to stop the court order.

“The bottom line was, this mother had never done anything except try to protect her child at the advice of professionals who gave her advice,” she said. “It was almost worse than if that child had died. It’s just like a piece of your heart is gone. … It’s like you get up every day and you just can’t go on.”

Attorney Cyndi Cheatham said she couldn't believe that it appeared the judge had based everything on a short interview with a 4-year-old.

“Every time, you know, we would say, ‘Well, this has gone so far field of what you would think would happen.’ It would get worse,” she said.

Butler's retired husband of 46 years went back to work to pay the legal costs of fighting for the boy.

“We were determined if it took every penny we had that you keep fighting. You keep fighting for your family,” Butler said.

The couple said their retirement fund was gone and that they needed money to appeal the decision.

“What’s money? You can’t put a price on a child’s life. You know, had we not done this, if we had gone out on a cruise or gone somewhere else, could I have enjoyed it? No,” Butler said.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals saw things Butlers' way and reversed every aspect of Byrd's decision and ordered the child back to her mother and vacating her decision entirely.

The court of appeals said what the Butlers said. The ruling stated that Byrd’s rulings were "based almost entirely on the trial court's interview of the child" and "the evidence simply does not support the findings by the trial court."

The case moved to Davidson County where the new judge reversed the previous decisions.

The judge awarded custody of the child to Butler and ordered psychosexual evaluation of the father and a lie-detector test.

After two days, the father gave up his parental rights.

“Two days after we were in court, we heard from the father’s attorney. He wanted to voluntarily surrender his parental rights, and that’s been done,” Butler said. She said they had not heard from the father since.

Byrd did not return any phone calls for an interview.
Court shoots down Byrd’s rulings


A 2006 legal error by Circuit Court Judge Clara Byrd led to her receiving one of the strictest findings that can be issued by the Court of Appeals in Tennessee.

The case, which has received recent media attention, involved the appellate court’s ruling that Byrd, an elected Wilson County judge, improperly left a child in the custody of his father, a suspected child abuser.

The case was brought to light by the boy’s grandmother, Wilson County resident Brenda Butler.

According to court documents, Byrd ignored a Department of Children’s Services finding of abuse as well as a police investigation of the father’s behavior, preferring to grant the father visitation rights after a 10-minute interview with the child she conducted in her chambers.

The state Court of Appeals reversed Byrd’s ruling entirely on Aug. 30, 2006, saying that her finding was not supported by the evidence presented at trial. The appeals court ordered Byrd to immediately return the boy to the custody of his mother and that the case be transferred to Davidson County’s Circuit Court.

Following the release of the appellate court’s ruling, the mother filed a motion in Byrd’s court requesting she be granted immediate custody of the child and that the case be transferred to Davidson County.

However, instead of complying with the higher court’s ruling, Byrd left the boy in his father’s care and held a hearing on Friday, Sept. 22, 2006.

On Monday, Sept. 25, the child’s mother filed an application with the Court of Appeals requesting that the court enter an expedited order granting her immediate custody of the child.

“Following the filing of the mother’s application with this court, the trial court [Byrd] entered an order holding that it has no jurisdiction over any matters whatsoever and transferring the case to the Circuit Court for Davidson County,” states the appellate court’s ruling.

“The mandate of this court is clear,” the ruling filed on Sept. 26 in the Clerk of Courts continues. “It requires the trial court [Byrd] to act immediately (1) to restore custody of the child to the mother ... and (2) to transfer the case to the Circuit Court of Davidson County.

“The trial court has departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings by failing to restore custody of the child to the mother immediately.”

Byrd’s failure to follow the higher court’s ruling led the Court of Appeals to issue one of its strictest findings, a Rule 10 order, so-called because of the section of the appellate court rules where it’s found.

A Rule 10 – also known as an “extraordinary appeal” – is issued only when the appeals court finds a lower court has “departed from the usual and accepted course of judicial proceedings.” In the case of Butler’s grandson, the Court of Appeals was far more direct than that, suggesting that Byrd ignored its orders.

“The trial court has refused to enter an order consistent with the mandate of this court,” the Court of Appeals ruling reads in part.

Not Byrd’s first
involvement with
Court of Appeals

This latest court case is not the first time a higher court has disagreed with rulings issued by Byrd.

More than two-thirds of the rulings appealed from Byrd’s court over the last four years have either been altered by the higher court, according to an independent review of the appealed cases conducted for The Lebanon Democrat.

The review was conducted for the paper by a Nashville attorney. The attorney’s review found Byrd has had 20 of her rulings heard in the state Court of Appeals over the last four years. One of those cases was “moot,” meaning that Byrd’s ruling was not affirmed or reversed. Of the remaining 19 rulings, 65 percent were either reversed entirely, reversed in part or modified by the higher court.

According to legal scholars, a reversal rate that high makes Byrd unique among her colleagues on the bench.

As happens with many state judges, a broad spectrum of different case types have been appealed to a higher court after Byrd has ruled on them. But legal scholars say that unlike most judges, Byrd’s rulings are more often than not altered or modified by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee that reviews them.

Either party in a given court case can appeal a judge’s ruling to a higher court. Generally, appellate judges will modify or reverse a case from a lower court because new evidence is introduced or the lower court judge misinterpreted the law or otherwise acted improperly.

“Appeals courts are more interested in ruling based on matters of law versus new evidence,” explained Stephanie Linquist, an associate professor at Vanderbilt Law School and an expert on appellate law. The professor said that at the state court level, the number of cases reversed on appeal normally averages around 30 percent, half of Byrd’s number.

“Appellate courts don’t get to see all the witnesses testify like trial courts do, so they’re more deferential to factual findings,” Linquist said. “Given that, if she’s being reversed at such a high rate, it’s probably because she’s making consistent or frequent legal errors.”
Linquist said that an appeals record like Byrd’s could be reason for concern.

“Overall, rates that high are just not a good thing for the legal system,” she said.

The Lebanon Democrat placed multiple calls to Byrd for comment and none were returned.

amicus brief on the case


Goodrum, Sawyer Receive Sentence in Child Rape Case

  This is placed here because of the hbecause of the terrible injustice.  This baby was only one day old and in the hospital when this man, her father, raped her.  He served one year and than has 9 years probabtion.  He dsaid he will fight for visitation.  Because of the age of this child, there is no previous child abuse charges files and it is unknown if any were filed for the one year old sibling.    The mother plead guilty for not protecting.

Jonathan Wayne Goodrum is escorted into Carroll County Circuit Court by Chief Deputy Terry Dickey.

By Joel Washburn

Listen to an excerpt of the trial

Sound off on the Blog

HUNTINGDON (March 8, 2007) Jonathan Wayne Goodrum and ex-fiancée Kristina Louise Sawyer both pled guilty in the March 24, 2006 rape case of their one-day old infant. Goodrum, 20, and Sawyer, age 19, both of McKenzie, entered pleas in Carroll County Circuit Court.

Last year, the case made national attention through the media and Internet blogs. Goodrum was originally charged with rape of a child under age 13 and she was charged with rape of a child. The charge of rape of a child has a sentencing range of 15 to 60 years and up to $50,000 fine.

Circuit Judge Donald Parish heard the two cases Thursday.

Kristina Louise Sawyer with defense counsel Steve West.

In an agreement, Goodrum pled guilty to attempted rape of a child. He received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment, which includes one year in continuous incarceration and the remaining nine year on probation in the community corrections program. He must also register as a lifetime sexual offender and is required to obtain counseling and therapy at his own expense and must not have contact with the victim unless authorized by the court. Goodrum has already served 11 months of the mandated one-year continuous incarceration. He will be released early next month or sooner if he receives credit for good behavior, officials said.

Goodrum, wearing a striped jail uniform and shackles was escorted in by Chief Deputy Terry Dickey. He proceeded to the defendant’s table to sit next to defense counsel Ben Dempsey. Judge Donald Parish asked Goodrum to stand and speak into the microphone and asked Deputy Dickey to remove Goodrum’s hand restraints.

Parish asked Goodrum a litany of questions concerning the understanding of his rights to a trial, noting that if he pleaded guilty he would not have the right to appeal and that punishment for any future convictions could carry an enhanced sentence.

The plea agreement was put forward because the prosecution did not believe it would have a lock-tight case. District Attorney Hansel McCadams said a Jackson doctor, who specializes in sex abuse cases, could not rule that the injury to the child was caused by a criminal act and could have been caused by some other procedure, even the improper use of a thermometer. There was no eyewitness to the reported crime and a video and medical records did not conclude Goodrum’s guilt, said McCadams. The timeline of events was also problematic for the prosecution, which could have resulted in a “not guilty” verdict if it had gone to trial.

The case was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. but actually occurred closer to 9:30 a.m. McCadams said the parties were trying to agree on a plea during that time.

“We felt we did not want to outright lose it,” said McCadams. “That’s why we offered the deal.” As for why Goodrum pled guilty, McCadams said the plea was the option that got him out of jail quickest. The family wanted him under some type of conviction.

Sawyer, the mother of the baby, pled guilty to violation of duty to report child abuse. She was sentenced to 11 months, 29 days, which includes 60 days of continuous confinement with the remainder in supervised probation. She has already served 64 days in the Carroll County Jail. She will be credited the extra four days confinement against the supervised probation sentence. Her contact with the infant child will be restricted as ordered by the Department of Children’s Services.

In the original report, McKenzie Police Lieutenant Tim Nanney reported Goodrum allegedly had unlawful sexual contact with his daughter by penetrating her with an unknown object. The child was in McKenzie Regional Hospital at the time of the incident and tears in the child’s body were discovered by nurses during an assessment of the infant. The child remained hospitalized for several days and has been placed in the custody of the mother’s sister. Sawyer previously had another child removed from her custody, according to authorities.

Sawyer had previously made a deal with the state to testify against Goodrum if it had gone to jury trial.

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