New trial granted in child rape case

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Marshall County man recently won an appeal against his 2009 conviction and the Court of Criminal Appeals has granted him a new trial.

The defendant, Paul Alexander Montgomery III, who had been living near Cornersville, was in Circuit Court on Wednesday with his new attorney, Steve Garner of Franklin.

Montgomery remains in custody, but he has a bond hearing scheduled for July 6, the next time Circuit Court is in session here. Judge Robert Crigler set Nov. 9 as the cut-off date for negotiations to see if the case can be resolved without a trial. If it cannot be resolved, Jan. 25-27 is the date for Montgomery's new trial.

In August 2009, a jury found Montgomery guilty as charged of nine counts of rape of a child, a girl who was under 13 at the time. Testimony at the trial revealed that Montgomery started abusing the girl on her ninth birthday and continued for almost three years.

Crigler handed down a 50-year sentence to be served at 100 percent as specified by state law in sex crimes. This was an effective life sentence, since Montgomery was 39 at the time of his conviction.

During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard questioned the victim for 90 minutes about the sex acts that she and the defendant allegedly performed on the dates named in the indictment. She testified that, in addition to those dates, they engaged in sexual activities from 10 to 25 times between her ninth birthday in 2002 and May 2005.

"Have you ever had to do anything in your life that was harder than this?" Barnard asked the victim at the end of her testimony.

"No," she whispered, almost in tears.

When Barnard asked her why so much time elapsed between the end of the offences and telling anyone, the victim answered that it had taken her that long to realize "someone might actually believe me if I told, and that it wouldn't be my fault."

The criminal appeals court overturned Montgomery's conviction because the court had allowed the victim to testify about sexual offences that occurred on her ninth birthday, even though this was a year before the first offence for which Montgomery was indicted.

"As previously noted by our supreme court, evidence of this type has a severe prejudicial effect at trial," wrote Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr. for the court of appeals. "Accordingly, we believe that the erroneously-admitted evidence prejudiced the Defendant and affirmatively affected the result of the trial on the merits."

Because the Attorney General's office chose not to appeal the appeal court's decision, Montgomery was returned to Marshall County for a new trial or other resolution of his case.