Witnesses and state prosecutors in the trial of Sandra Ann Craig, the former Clarksville day-care operator whose highly publicized child-abuse conviction was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals, said they are angry that she will be free on a legal technicality.
Prosecutors in the Howard County state's attorney's office said yesterday they won't retry Craig's case, which has been heard in courts on four separate occasions, because they don't want the four children involved to suffer any more emotional trauma.
Craig was convicted in 1987 of physical and sexual abuse of a 6-year-old girl who attended her Craig's Country Pre-School, but the verdict was overturned.
The Court of Appeals reversed the decision, saying the judge should not have allowed the children to testify on closed-circuit television without interviewing them to determine whether they were emotionally unable to confront Craig in person.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that people charged with child abuse are not always entitled to meet their accuser face-to-face, and returned the case to the Court of Appeals. The state court three months ago upheld its reversal of Craig's conviction.
"Mrs. Craig's conviction was made on the basis of evidence, and the reversal of her conviction was based purely on a technicality," said Charles I. Shubin, a Baltimore pediatrician who testified for the state. "This, to me, is not justice."
Craig's attorney, however, William H. Murphy Jr., said the five-year ordeal represents a faulty justice system that allows innocent people to be persecuted.
Craig, who moved to New Jersey, has suffered a ruined reputation and heavy financial burden and has lost hopes of continuing her career as a day-care operator, he said.
Murphy said his firm has shouldered nearly $350,000 in costs to defend Craig, because she no longer had money after paying a previous lawyer more than $270,000.
"I have defended her because I believe in her," Murphy said. If the children had been required to testify in Craig's presence, her innocence would have been proven, he said.
"Suppose the kid had said 'Oh, Miss Craig, I can't lie on you' and then hopped in her lap? The case would be over," Murphy said. "It's much easier to tell falsehoods in private."
Craig said in a press conference yesterday she was pleased that her case would not be retried.
"There may have been child abuse sometime, but it wasn't me," she said.