Defense Discredits Jailhouse Informants’ Testimony In Graham Trial
South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Defense attorneys for Geralyn Graham continued to present their case Monday with testimony from a county prison guard whose testimony aims to discredit the states’ witnesses claims that Graham confessed to killing foster child Rilya Wilson.
Graham, who is accused of killing missing 4-year-old foster child, faces life in prison if convicted in the child’s murder.
The state’s case against Graham has relied on three jailhouse informants including that of Robin Lunceford who has been serving time for multiple armed robberies and whose life sentence was reduced for her cooperation in this case.
Lunceford testified that Graham confessed to her that she had killed Rilya by smothering her with a pillow and burying her body near water. Rilya’s body has never been found. Lunceford said Graham made this confession during the time they were transported together to a bond court hearing in August of 2004.
On Monday, Miami-Dade Corrections Lt. Costello Guyton told jurors that some conversations Lunceford claims to have had with Graham could not have happened because she and Graham had been separated.
This testimony came after jurors heard bombshell testimony from a defense witness who testified last Thursday that two of the state’s key witnesses worked together to make up stories about Graham’s alleged confessions.
Cindy McCloud, who was serving time for drug-related charges, said that during her time in prison she befriended Robin Lunceford and Maggie Carr, also a state witness who alleged Graham made incriminating statements about Rilya. Earlier in the trial, Lunceford testified for the state and said Graham had confessed to killing Rilya Wilson by suffocating her with a pillow then burying her body near water.
McCloud told jurors that Lunceford had told her that her testimony was “all lies.”
“She said, ‘You know, it’s all lies. All of it. It’s all lies,’ ” McCloud said Lunceford told her.
The case against Graham is based on the testimony of three jailhouse informants. No physical evidence has linked Graham to Rilya’s murder.
McCloud also implicated Carr who also testified against Graham. She said Carr had asked Lunceford, who is in prison for multiple violent armed robberies, to bring her in on her plea deal. Lunceford’s life sentence was reduced to 10 years in exchange for her testimony.
Carr who was convicted for her role in a 1991 murder of a wealthy English man, is serving a life sentence, but is eligible for parole in 2016. McCloud testified that Carr told her she would receive favorable reviews from the State Attorney’s Office for her cooperation.
Carr told authorities that Graham had broken down and confessed to her. Carr, who was 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 said in her testimony earlier in the week. “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.
A day earlier, the defense attempted to discredit the state’s third jailhouse informant.
Miami-Dade Corrections Sgt. Rene Vila took the stand for the defense Wednesday. Defense attorneys called into question the credibility of jailhouse snitch Ramona Tavia who claimed she shared a cell where Graham allegedly confessed to killing Rilya. Tavia testified that Graham told her she killed Rilya to protect her live-in lover, Pamela Graham.
Defense attorneys presented jail records that showed Tavia and Geralyn Graham never shared a cell in November 2003 when the confession allegedly took place. But on cross-examination, Vila said the records are not always perfectly accurate and Tavia could be telling the truth.
“If it was a temporary matter, no cell change would have taken place in the system,” Vila said.
It’s not clear if Graham herself will testify. She has maintained in the past that Rilya was taken from her home by an unknown child welfare worker for mental tests and never returned. Investigators, however, have found no evidence to support that claim. She faces life in prison if convicted of murder, kidnapping and child abuse charges.
Rilya’s disappearance in December of 2000 was not discovered by state officials for some 15 months. That failure led to a high-level shakeup at the state Department of Children and Families and passage of several foster child reform laws, including tighter case worker reporting rules and better tracking of children.