Forensics and medical experts punch holes in the “he said/she said” defense –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
A nine woman, three man jury with four alternates was seated on Monday, Aug. 21 in the rape and kidnapping trial of an Adams County teen with Judge Brett Spencer presiding.
Denny W. Blanton,Jr. 18, of Manchester is accused of allegedly kidnapping and raping a minor girl from the Peebles area on Feb. 22, 2016. He was indicted on March 3 by the Adams County Grand Jury on two counts of kidnapping and two counts of rape.
Early Tuesday, after touring five locations associated with the case, the jury heard opening statements. Blanton Jr. was stoic as Assistant Prosecutor Kris Blanton detailed the charges against him: “he shoved her to the ground, he hit her, he threatened her, he restrained her before putting her in his truck and driving to a nearby cemetery where he forced her to submit”. Pointing at the defendant, he said “I expect that after you hear all the testimony and listen to all the witnesses, you will come to the conclusion that Denny W. Blanton Jr. is guilty.”
Defense attorney Tyler Cantrell countered, reminding the jurors the burden of proof rests with the state. “There are only two people who know what happened out there,” Cantrell said. “In the end, you will determine that Denny Blanton Jr. is not guilty.”
Forensic specialists on Thursday testified that DNA belonging to Blanton was found on the minor girls’ body and under clothing.
According to the testimony of forensic scientist Erika Jimenez, there was a only a 1 in one trillion chance that the DNA was not Blanton’s. “He cannot be excluded,” she said. “He is definitely included.”
On Wednesday the court listened to a Feb. 23 audio recording of Blanton telling Sheriff Kimmy Rogers that he had no sexual contact with the girl, saying he’d only given her a ride.
However, medical experts from Children’s Hospital testified that the girl’s injuries were consistent with sexual assault.
Again Thursday, the jury watched as Blanton, in a Feb. 23 video recording with Investigator Kenny Dick, continued to deny the allegations brought against him.
“I just gave the girl a ride, I shouldn’t have done that,” he told Dick. When asked if he’d had sex with her he replied, “No, I didn’t have sex with her.”
Blanton Jr.’s attorneys, Tyler Cantrell and Mike Kelly, argue that the sexual encounter between their client and the minor girl was consensual.
The father of the victim sat alone in the courtroom Tuesday as his daughter, the state’s first witness, related her Feb. 22 encounter with Blanton Jr. on Tater Ridge Road.
She told the court how he stopped her during her daily run. Describing him as “nervous” she said he asked for directions, then got out of his white double cab pickup truck on the pretext of getting a map from the back seat. She said he began asking her “weird questions”. “He asked me how old I was and I told him I was 12 because I was beginning to get scared.” the victim testified.
She said the “way he was acting” reminded her of her brother, who suffers from a mental illness and often exhibits similar behavior. “You have to be nice and calm with him” she told Prosecutor David Kelley.
She said she became even more frightened when she realized the paper he was holding wasn’t a map and recounted how he approached her. “He shoved me to the ground, he hit me on the cheek with his fist, he said he’d kill me if I yelled, I was scared.”
She described in detail how he restrained her by wrapping his belt around her arms and body, forced her onto the back floor board of the truck, and drove her to another location where he raped her.
She said afterward he her drove back to Wheat Ridge Road. Dropping her off at a house near Miller’s Bakery, she said he made her swear she wouldn’t tell.
“He told me to swear on my mom and dad’s lives so I did. Then he told me I could get out.” When the truck was out of sight, she ran to Miller’s where she called her mother and reported what had happened.
During cross examination defense attorney Mike Kelly asked the girl if she believed her parents would be upset if she’d had consensual sex. Prosecutor Kelley’s objection was sustained and Judge Spencer told the jury to disregard the question.
Kelly also questioned her about apparent discrepancies between her testimony in court and what she told the 911 operator. Asking why she failed to say that she’d been restrained or hit in the face, she replied that she “thought she had given the operator those details”. She also said she was aware that her DNA was not found on the defendant’s belt.
In testimony Thursday DNA expert Jimenez told the court it was not unusual for “Touch DNA” not to transfer on to objects.
The trial is expected to conclude by Friday, Aug. 26.
In a separate case involving sex-related crimes, the Adams County Grand Jury in May 2016 indicted Blanton Jr. on charges of Pandering Sexually Oriented Matter Involving a Minor and Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity-Oriented Material or Performance. In yet another case, he was indicted in May 2016 for kidnapping, assault, and felonious assault. That trial is scheduled for Oct. 2016.
Look for the final results of this trial in the Wednesday, Aug. 31 issue of The People’s Defender.