Rape trial starts today
By Karen Hall
The trial of a Cornersville man charged with multiple sexual offenses starts today.
Stephen D. Smith, 53, is charged with one count of rape of a child. This allegedly happened in 2008, when the victim was less than 13 years old. Smith is also charged with four counts of aggravated statutory rape of the same victim on four different dates in 2011. Additionally, in a separate case being tried at the same time, Smith is charged with 40 counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, because he took photographs of the victim engaged in sexual activity during three of their encounters in 2011.
According to the case file, someone discovered the photos on a computer Smith gave them, and the investigation, by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement, started. Smith was arrested in May 2013 and has remained jailed since then, unable to make a $100,000 bond.
The jury was chosen Monday, but the evidence phase of this trial could not start yesterday because Smith's appointed attorney, Hershel Koger of Pulaski, had to argue a criminal appeal in Knoxville on Tuesday.
Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell asked potential jurors a series of questions, attempting to discover if they could be fair and impartial. None of them know Smith or the TBI agents who will be called as witnesses, and only a few know the local officers who will also be witnesses. When asked if they had any prior firsthand, or secondhand, knowledge of the case, no hands were raised.
Russell said he hoped to finish the trial in three days, but also said it might continue into Monday and Tuesday of next week.
The prosecution will be handled by Assistant District Attorneys Eddie Barnard and Holly Eubanks.