The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether a videotaped interview with a 10-year-old girl should be allowed as evidence in the trial of the man accused of molesting her.
The interview with Jetseta Gage was conducted by a health care worker at a Cedar Rapids hospital. The lawyers for James Bentley, the man accused in the case, say using the tape violates their client’s right to cross-examine the accuser.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Tabor argued that police may have wanted the tape to gain a conviction, but that wasn’t the reason is was made. "If we talk to the pediatrician involved here, or the social workers, I think we might give a different perspective," Tabor said in arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court. "I think they might tell us this is all about the safety of the child – and if there’s a by-product of that that leads to a prosecution – that’s not the primary purpose here."
Bentley’s lawyer, Tom O’Flaherty, disagreed. O’Flaherty contends the tape was specifically was made to help police. "The child’s health and well-being had already been covered, she was already in the institution," he told the justices.
Tabor insisted the purpose of the tape was strictly about the girl’s health, and for that reason, cross-examination isn’t neccessary. "At the time she goes into the interview, the intent is on her well-being and safety," Tabor argued. "The primary purpose now (with the tape) is prosecution, but I don’t think that’s how everyone was looking at it going into the matter."
O’Flaherty said a police officer was watching the interview, so he believes the intent was clear. "The police officer said that’s their goal," O’Flaherty stated, "To go there to get evidence, she took the tape and labeled it as evidence against James Bentley."
The Iowa Supreme Court is not expected to issue a ruling in the case for several weeks. Regardless of the outcome of the state trial, Bentley will probably remain in prison for the rest of his life. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison on federal charges in the case earlier this week.
Bentley’s brother, Roger, is serving life in prison for kidnapping and murdering Jetseta Gage in 2005.