The jury heard nearly two hours of closing arguments this morning and has begun deliberations in the case against a Scottsbluff man accused of sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl in 2012.
Jimmy Darnell is charged with 1st and 3rd Degree Sexual Assault of a Child. This week in Scotts Bluff County District Court the jury heard from witnesses including the victim, her parents, investigators, a CAPstone forensic interviewer and more.
County Attorney Dave Eubanks told the jury that this assault absolutely happened. He says both parents were told of the incident at a local restaurant, but did not do anything to address the issues until the claims came up again in 2018. Eubanks also noted there were texts exchanged between the parents corroborating that something did in fact happen.
He adds that the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who testified this week could not confirm or rule out that the girl was sexually assaulted.
Eubanks concluded that this case boils down to the child who took the stand to testify. “Either you believe her or you don’t,” remarked Eubanks. “But if you believe what she said on the witness stand, you can convict.”
Afterwards, Defense Attorney Maren Chaloupka took the stand. In her closing statements, she compared to the case against her client similar to the Salem Witch Trial. Chaloupka said that 29 men and women back in 1692 were convicted and hanged for being witches. She said of course afterward, it was found that those accusers beared false witness and those 29 were wrongfully convicted.
She told the jury Darnell is in a similar situation, being accused of the most heinous of crimes and nowadays it is a slow, difficult process to overturn a wrongful conviction.
Chaloupka reminded the jury that Darnell is innocent until proven guilty, and his charges are based solely on claims from a young girl that can’t keep the stories that her mother is feeding her straight.
She told the jurors that they are the last line of defense of clearing an innocent man’s name and integrity.
Chaloupka noted how the story changed over time: starting with ‘Darnell touched me one time’ into ‘There was touching down there’ and finally ‘There was penetration’.
“What happens to make all these changes?” posed Chaloupka. “Confabulation. An untrue, incomplete story.” She said that the girl’s mother had to keep feeding stories about the allegations as the original story hit snags along the way.
Chaloupka continued that the girl’s mother has no concern whatsoever about the consequences from those accusations.
“Jimmy Darnell became a victim of collateral damage,” remarked Chaloupka.
“When any witness can’t tell a story consistently, you can question that,” she told the jury.
Chaloupka concluded her closing statements by telling the jury that they cannot wrongfully convict an innocent man, and urged them to not be afraid to stand up for justice.
The jury received the case at 10:40 a.m. Thursday to begin deliberations on both charges. District Judge Leo Dobrovolny says if no verdicts are returned by 4:30 p.m., they will recess for the day and return for deliberations on Friday.