Two child witnesses allowed to testify in sex abuse trial

2013-02-21T00:25:00Z 2013-03-11T12:48:46Z Two child witnesses allowed to testify in sex abuse trialPaige Fieldsted - Daily Herald Daily Herald
February 21, 2013 12:25 am  • 

PROVO -- Two girls will be allowed to testify at the trial of Alfredo Vargas, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

Defense attorneys for Vargas, who is accused of sexually abusing several children at his wife's day care in Lehi, filed a motion to exclude the testimony of two of the four girls who testified at the preliminary hearing.

The defense claimed that the girls' accounts had been tainted by peer interaction and was unreliable.

Fourth District Judge James Taylor denied that motion in a written ruling filed on Wednesday. Taylor wrote in the eight-page ruling that there is no reason to believe the testimony of the two girls would confuse the case but said the critical question is if the value of the girls' testimony outweighs any unfair prejudice it might create. Taylor weighed the two girls in question separately.

"Her ability to explain and clarify at the preliminary hearing also demonstrated her capacity to give testimony. She can be cross-examined and the jury will be able to fairly evaluate the credibility of her testimony," Taylor wrote about the older of the two girls.

The younger of the two girls is the more difficult witness in question. The girl was interviewed a total of seven times by forensic interviewers, and dolls and anatomical drawings were used in her interviews. During a two-day evidentiary hearing several witnesses, including an expert on child testimony, took the stand. Kamala London Newton said extended interviews as well as using dolls can create a danger of influence and suggestion by re-enforcing details in a young child's mind.

Taylor wrote that during the interviews the girl's train of thought often was hard to follow.

"She moved without pause from obvious creative storytelling to reports of incidents involving the defendant and then to other playful interaction with the interviewers. Any finder of fact, including the jury, will have the same difficulty sorting out what is possible and credible from what is fantasy and playful," Taylor wrote.

Despite the difficulty of sorting out what actually happened Taylor ruled that it is "not such an impossible task that it should not be given to the jury in this case."

Vargas is facing 15 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. He allegedly abused several children at the Little Bears Daycare in Lehi while his wife was away on a trip to Chile. His trial is scheduled to begin March 4.

-- Paige Fieldsted covers robberies, burglaries, murders and any other crimes and court cases happening in Utah County. Follow Paige on Twitter at @paigefieldsted.
Read more from Paige Fieldsted here.

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