Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 31, 2012

Bid for new trial in child sex assault denied

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — Danny Ray Smith's efforts for a new trial fell short when a trial judge threw out his motions including one that claimed his confession should have not been allowed into evidence.

It took a Cumberland County jury 25 minutes to return a verdict of guilty of child rape and to fine Smith, 58, of Fairview Rd., $50,000. Smith was later sentenced to 25 years in prison at 100 percent.

Defense attorney and Assistant Public Defender John Nisbet filed a motion for a new trial, citing several reasons including a claim that Smith's confession to sheriff's investigators should not have been allowed because he claimed the defendant was not literate and, therefore, not competent to realize the ramifications of providing a voluntary statement.

Other issues raised by Nisbet included a claim that previous bad acts should not have been allowed to be presented to the jury, a claim that Assistant District Attorney General Amanda Hunter led the young victim in her questioning, that there was insufficient evidence to support the child rape verdict, and that the witness may have been coached as to what to say.

Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie countered each claim in the motion for new trial. In regards to the coaching claim, McKenzie argued his and Hunter's "law license is not worth jeopardizing by coaching witnesses on what to say."

Judge Leon Burns ruled that state law recognizes rape of a child to include any sexual contact of the nature presented, "no matter how slight."

As to Smith's prior bad acts, Burns ruled that the bad acts of a sexual nature leading up to and being part of the crime charged were admissible.

The judge also found that Smith, having been in court several times prior to his February trial, the fact that he had made property transactions in the past, and because the defendant never claimed he didn't understand what he was doing when giving investigators his statement, negated the argument that the statement was inadmissible.

Smith can now appeal his conviction to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.