After two days of deliberation, the jury in the case against Antonio Carter-Bibbs and Patricia Kenard returned with acquittals on most of the charges. Patricia Kenard saw two of the charges dropped prior to closing arguments, with the third charge, based on an accusation that she encouraged the child to touch Mr. Carter-Bibbs’ genitalia, resulting in an acquittal.
Mr. Carter-Bibbs was acquitted on three charges, including a lesser included and the attempted oral copulation, but the jury hung on a 10-2 vote – with the majority favoring acquittal there as well.
Speaking to the court watch team following the verdict, Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt was not sure as to whether the DA intended to retry Mr. Carter-Bibbs on the remaining charges.
During the closing arguments, the two sides clashed on the credibility of the four-year-old witness.
The verdict came down to whether the jury decided it could believe the word of a four-year-old potential victim, who, while telling at least six individuals of the encounter, when it came time to take the stand during the trial, denied that her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had done anything sexually to her.
“How many more people does (the girl) have to tell?” Deputy DA Brooke Jenkins asked as she opened her nearly three-hour initial closing argument. “What does it take to believe her?”
She went on to point out that the child told six different people, but she had to explain away a number of denials, including most recently on the stand.
For her part, Jenkins argued if these allegations were untrue, there had to be an explanation about her graphic sexual knowledge, and she argued the only way the girl would have known these “sensations” and concepts were if they “happened to her.” And Jenkins also said we had to understand the girl’s motivation to report.
To counter this argument, the defense brought in an expert, Julie Buck, who provided testimony arguing that there can be false reports in sexual abuse cases with false memory based on questions as well as what is known as source monitoring error – a type of error where the source of a memory is incorrectly attributed to some specific recollected experience.
One of the possibilities presented by the defense was seeing the parents having sex – an issue that the deputy DA played down, but which appeared to go beyond a simple one-time experience.
Furthermore, while the jury did not hear of the confused statements from the girl during her two competency hearings, the judge determined that she was only marginally competent to stand trial.
This was further bolstered by evidence provided by the defense that the DA coached the young witness in the hall.
How much these issues weighed on the minds of the jurors is unclear.
What Eric Quandt told the court watch team was that the jury found the testimony of Mr. Carter-Bibbs and also Patricia Kenard to be compelling. He said that they found them to be believable.
The fact that Mr. Carter-Bibbs had no criminal history, that nothing incriminating was found on his phone and there were no physical injuries or DNA on the little girl played to their advantage.
Eric Quandt played on the defendants’ innocence. During his closing arguments, he argued, “There are two innocent people in this courtroom.”
The plea for innocence was important. In his opening argument, Mr. Quandt had argued that Mr. Carter-Bibbs was innocent and he had “never been accused of anything even close to this.”
Moreover, in the closing, just as in the opening, he argued that Carter-Bibbs acted like an innocent man. He did not act like someone with something to hide. He went to the police station voluntarily, waived his Miranda rights, voluntarily gave DNA and submitted to a lie detector test. He said he did so because he did not believe he needed a lawyer.
The police got a warrant to search his phone, looking for evidence of interest in children or child pornography, Mr. Quandt and the DA and police jointly opened his phone and found nothing incriminating on the phone.
While the deputy DA attempted to downplay Carter-Bibbs’ lack of incriminating conduct here, clearly that played a key role for the jurors.
“They embraced reasonable doubt,” Eric Quandt told us. “I gave them a story of innocence and let them come to reasonable doubt.”
Mr. Quandt was hoping his client would be released from custody on Thursday, five months after he was first taken into custody.
—David M. Greenwald reporting