MIAMI (CBSMIAMI) - After 24 days of testimony in the case against accused child killer Geralyn Graham, the defense rested its case Tuesday.
But it doesn’t mean the case will go the jurors right away. State prosecutors will now have an opportunity to present their rebuttal to the defense’s case.
The defense strategy has centered on discrediting the state’s three jailhouse informants. One informant told jurors that Graham had confessed to killing 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson because “she was evil and a slut.” Another inmate told jurors that Graham had asked if her if there was no body there could be “no crime.” A third informant told jurors that she shared a cell with Graham when she heard her crying and saying she “killed” the child for her lover, Pamela Graham.
Defense attorneys have presented testimony attempting to show that the informants all had something to gain from their testimony. At times, raising doubts about the credibility of their testimony. Jurors, however, will not hear from the defendant directly.
Graham told Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez that she did not wish to testify.
Graham, who is accused of killing Rilya Wilson, faces life in prison if convicted.
But defense attorneys attempted to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors by calling Homestead Correctional Institution Warden Norman Jenkins Tuesday.
Jenkins testified that the state prosecutor in the case, Josh Weintraub, made special requests on behalf of the state’s key witness — jailhouse informant Robin Lunceford. Lunceford testified that Graham confessed to her in August of 2004 that she had smothered Rilya Wilson with a pillow and buried her body near water. Rilya’s body has never been found.
Jenkins told jurors that he received several requests from the State Attorney’s Office that were accommodating to Lunceford.
“Were you requested to restore telephone privileges to Ms. Lunceford,” Defense attorney Scott Sakin asked Jenkins.
“Yes, sir,” Jenkins replied.
“Was Ms. Lunceford moved to a dorm she wanted to be moved to,” Sakin asked.
“Yes,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins also testified that the State Attorney’s Office requested her to be moved from her prison housekeeper job to that of a yoga instructor.
“Did you do it?” Sakin asked.
“Yes,” Jenkins replied.
There were times when Lunceford would be put in lockup, which is similar to solitary confinement for violating prison rules.
“Josh Weintraub asked you to have Ms. Lunceford released from confinement early,” Sakin said.
“Yes, sir,” Jenkins said.
He said some of the favors that were granted to Lunceford were not in keeping with decisions he might have otherwise made, but Jenkins said, “I felt like I was between a rock and hard place.”
Lunceford had also testified that she was often harassed by Department of Corrections employees for being a “snitch.”
However, Jenkins said he was never made aware of any harassment.
In cross-examination, Weintraub emphasized that Lunceford was never allowed to leave the jail facility for any reason.
“Did she ever get out of razor wire?” Weintraub asked.
“No,” Jenkins replied.
Weintraub said that because a union governs corrections employees, Jenkins is limited in his ability to question officers. Therefore, if there were allegations of harassment, Jenkins would not be able to directly question the employees involved.
No physical evidence has linked Graham to Rilya’s murder. 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.