Rape trial continues, defense questions lead investigator

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

LINDEN &8212; During Thursday&8217;s testimony in the ongoing case against former Demopolis police officer Terrence Lavell Smith, in which Smith is charged with rape in the second degree of a 13-year-old female, attorneys focused on past allegations against lead investigator, Chief Sheriff&8217;s Deputy Tommy Reese of the Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s Department.

Sheriff Jesse Langley was recalled to the stand by District Attorney Greg Griggers and asked about his experience with Reese as a deputy and his choice to hire him as chief deputy. Langley testified he appointed Reese to the chief deputy position and also sent him to be trained at the FBI academy in Qualcomm, Va.

Furthermore, Langley was questioned about Smith applying to be a deputy for the department in 2006. Langley also testified Reese had recommended Smith for the position.

Under cross examination, defense attorney Jim Parkman asked Langley if he was aware of a domestic violence charge made by Reese&8217;s then wife in 2001, while the two were married. Langley confirmed he was aware of the charge, and further testified the now ex-wife of Reese signed a statement saying she had been the aggressor in the situation, not Reese.

The exchanges between the two attorneys became heated when Griggers objected to Parkman&8217;s line of questioning regarding the nature of domestic violence cases in general and whether or not an arrest is usually made.

Sheriff Langley continued his testimony and said despite the report and the allegations, which were also looked into by the FBI before Reese was accepted into the academy, Reese did get accepted and completed his training there.

Before calling his first witness, Parkman asked Hardaway for a judgment of acquittal of the charges against Smith on the grounds the state had not provided sufficient evidence against his client. Hardaway denied the request.

Parkman called only one witness: Jennie Westbrook, a case worker for the Marengo County Department of Human Resources who was present during Reese&8217;s interview with the victim. According to Westbrook, her role in the interview was to take notes and file a report with her office and the state.

During questioning, Westbrook&8217;s report corroborated the story of the victim, who testified Tuesday to having sexual intercourse with Smith on at least three separate occasions &8212; two of which she said occurred in Smith&8217;s personal truck, and one of which occurred in an abandoned cell in the former Demopolis jail building next to the municipal court.

Based on a forensic analysis of items collected from both Smith&8217;s truck and the jail cell of the old police building where the first incident is alleged to have taken place, Debbie Dodd of the Alabama Department of Forensic Science testified Wednesday that a quarter-sized spot found on a swatch of fabric collected from the front car seat of Smith&8217;s truck tested positive for semen.

She further testified that &8212; using a procedure called differential extraction, which separates genetic material from the fibers of the material &8212; she concluded there was DNA from both a female and a male in the mixture.

Upon comparing the female portion of the sample to a blood sample provided by the victim, the DNA was found to be a positive match to her genetic profile. When the male portion of the sample was compared to the blood sample provided by Smith, it could not be determined it was a positive match for Smith&8217;s genetic profile.

Previously in the case, it was determined Smith had a vasectomy performed in 2003, which medically prevented him from producing sperm. Dodd also explained the sample, although it contained male traits, did not have any sperm present, which is consistent with a person who has had a vasectomy.

The case came to public view when a friend of the victim&8217;s told school authorities about the victim&8217;s relationship with Smith, who was the officer assigned to oversee the crosswalk at Demopolis Middle School where the victim was in eighth grade at the time.

The investigation was turned over to the Marengo County Sheriff&8217;s Department once it was determined the case involved a Demopolis police officer. According to Reese, who was the lead investigator in the case, the sheriff&8217;s department was given a report from the Department of Human Resources and requested to handle the case.

Smith was relieved of his duties at the department after his arrest on Dec. 19.

In Alabama, rape II is defined as sexual interaction with a minor between the ages of 13 and 16 by someone over the age of 16 with at least two years between the parties. The class B felony can carry a sentence of two to 20 years of prison time for each count.