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Continued: Child witnesses face tough decisions about testifying

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 13, 2014 - 9:46 PM

In 2009, Eric Hawkins was sentenced to 12 years in prison after his conviction for sexually assaulting an Elk River youth soccer player he coached. The girl’s graphic and emotional testimony moved jurors to tears.

“I felt like I was speaking for girls who didn’t have a voice,” she told the Star Tribune after the verdict.

Emmans was the Sherburne County prosecutor during the Hawkins trial. When child victims are invited into her office, they see a Joe Mauer Fathead poster on her wall. She’ll often wear the child’s favorite color or ask about their favorite class, sometimes spending months demystifying the court system while seeing if a child might be comfortable testifying. “You meet these precious individuals who tell you about their darkest days,” Emmans said. “The things that have been done to them are the worse than anything you can imagine, done to them by people who love them more than anything in the world. And you wonder about their future.”

Last summer, Schnickel was sentenced in Hennepin County to a year in the workhouse for sending nude photos of himself to two teenage girls. Prosecutor Juanita Freeman avoided having to call teenage witnesses to the stand when that case also was settled with a plea agreement.

Still, she sees the potential benefit of such testimony. She says it offers kids a chance to say to the defendant, “I know what you did to me was wrong.”

 

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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