MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Defense attorneys for the 66-year-old woman facing first-degree murder of a child tried to discredit one of the state’s witnesses Monday.
In the trial against Geralyn Graham, a second jailhouse informant told jurors that Graham had asked her for legal advice — specifically, if the state could charge her with murder even though the child’s body was never found, according to testimony by Maggie Carr, an inmate who is serving a life sentence for her role in the murder of a wealthy English businessman in 1991.
Graham is accused of killing 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson, whose disappearance more than 10 years ago led to massive changes in the way the Department of Children and Families tracks children.
While most of the evidence against Graham is circumstantial, several jailhouse informants have testified against Graham.
One jailhouse snitch told authorities that Graham had broken down and confessed to her. Carr, the second jailhouse informant to testify against Graham, said that the conversations she had with Graham sounded incriminating.
Carr received training as a law clerk while in jail and Graham turned to her for legal advice.
“She told me that they were trying to get her for murder,” Carr told jurors. “And that no one would care because it was a crack addict child.”
Carr also testified that Graham repeatedly told her that if there was no body, there was no murder.
When Carr asked more questions, Graham allegedly replied that “the critters” would have taken care of the body.
Rilya Wilson’s body has never been found.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Scott Sakin called into question Carr’s credibility by pointing out to jurors that she was convicted of “pre-meditated first-degree murder.”
Carr admitted to fleeing the country to avoid prosecution and slipping back into Florida in hiding.
“So once you came back, you attempted to hideout in Miami?” Sakin asked Carr.
“Correct,” she said.
Sakin also hinted to jurors that Carr who is in for life may stand to benefit from her testimony.
“Are you trying to tell this jury that you wouldn’t like the State Attorney’s Office to tell the governor that you were helpful in this case?” Sakin asked.
“That’s not what I’m telling the jury sir,” Carr said.
But when state prosecutor Josh Weintraub questioned Carr in redirect, Carr said guilt in her own case and the age of the victim in this case prompted her to testify against a fellow inmate.
“Basically, I was a coward, today I’ve chosen not to be a coward. That’s why I’m sitting here,” Carr said tearfully. “Because it’s a child, it’s a child.”
Last week, jailhouse snitch Robin Lunceford testified that Graham confessed to her that she smothered the 4-year-old girl with a pillow because Rilya was evil and mentally troubled.
She also said Graham confessed to her that she disposed of the body near water.
Lunceford who has given detailed testimony about Graham’s conversations with her, had lapses in her memory and, at one point, conflicted with what she recalled in court and what she said in a CBS4 News interview in May of 2005.
“Did you ever tell anyone, Ms. Lunceford, that my client said she buried it close to water because it would cleanse the soul?” Matters asked.
First, Lunceford responded no and then added, “I don’t know if I said that or not. I can’t remember.”
In a telephone jailhouse interview with CBS4 News in May of 2005, Lunceford said Graham had told her that she had buried the child near a lake so that it would “cleanse her soul.”
Lunceford who has been convicted of multiple armed robberies has traded her testimony for a lighter prison sentence from life to 10 years. It’s a fact that defense attorneys argued make Lunceford less credible.
However, Lunceford said her motivation for testifying centers on the fact that a child had been murdered, despite the retribution she said she has suffered for being labeled a “snitch.”
In earlier testimony, Lunceford said she took notes of her 2004 talk with Graham and read back parts of it to the jury which included, “She wants them to find the grave so it can be over. It’s eating her up inside.”
Lunceford is considered one of the prosecution’s key witnesses.
Graham faces life in prison if convicted of killing Rilya.