It took a Warren County trial jury less than one hour Friday morning to return a not-guilty verdict in the case of a local man charged with aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child.
Jerry Allen Hennessee, 53, was charged with aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child in July 2017 after a 10-year-old family member came forward claiming that, while at Hennessee’s residence, he touched her breasts and penetrated her.
During the trial, which saw jury selection on Wednesday, and testimony Thursday and Friday mornings, jury members listened to statements from family members, medical investigators, Hennessee and the now 12-year-old alleged victim.
Hennessee was represented by the Public Defender’s office.
“This allegation arose in the middle of a highly-contested custody battle. There were significant inconsistencies every time the child talked about it,” says Public Defender John Partin during closing arguments. “The state attempted to gather both scientific and medical proof and what they found supported Mr. Hennessee’s testimony that this didn’t happen.”
“The child had disclosed sexual abuse. She testified for over an hour, and her testimony was tearful, and I thought, truthful,” says Assistant District Attorney Tom Miner. “Her testimony was by-and-large consistent with the forensic interview done years ago. The investigation was properly conducted, they took the proper steps, and included in those steps, was the fact they looked for DNA, but you don’t always find DNA. In this case, in particular, the defendant said he washed his sheets after the event occurred. During the medical investigation, no evidence was found, but the medical investigators took the stand, and said they only find forensic evidence in seven percent of cases. In a case like this, often the only evidence had is the child’s testimony. There’s some occasion where there’s physical evidence to support it, but on some occasions there is no corroborating evidence.”
After breaking to decide the verdict, the jury came back in less than an hour to find Hennessee not guilty on both counts due to lack of evidence. The young girl left the court room in tears.
“The jury does what they think they should do. I’m sure they deliberated hard on the case,” ADA Miner said. “We have to be satisfied with the outcome. That’s the way the system works.”
Partin expressed gratitude for the jury’s verdict.
“There are no winners in a case like this. It’s a tragic circumstance any time allegations like these are made,” he said. “We are just grateful that the jury listened carefully to the evidence and found Mr. Hennessee not guilty.”