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Former BOE Member Accused Of Child Molestation Will Not Face Trial

A former board of education member accused of child molestation will not stand trial.

Tallapoosa Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning  told WLBB Radio Wednesday that his office has decided not to  prosecute a former Vice-Chairman of the Haralson County Board of Education.

54-year old Joseph Blaine Griffith of Buchanan was indicted by a Haralson County Grand Jury, charged with eight counts of child molestation involving three alleged victims.  But his case will not be presented in a criminal court.

"After careful consideration, my office has determined it cannot prosecute the charges against Griffith due to insufficient evidence," Browning, said. “This decision was not made lightly and came only after several months of carefully considering every aspect of the evidence in the case in preparing it for trial, which included speaking with all witnesses, and reviewing and comparing their prior statements and the timelines and surrounding circumstances involved, and applying the relevant criminal laws to the allegations and evidence in the case."

Mr. Browning says his office concluded and he believes that a jury would conclude, that while Mr. Griffith’s conduct, through his words and actions as described by the alleged victims, was susceptible to mischaracterization or misinterpretation as being questionably inappropriate, it did not demonstrate any provable criminal intent on his part as required by our criminal laws.

The alleged victims were known to be acquaintances of the defendant.

"Even though Mr. Griffith’s case was indicted, a Grand Jury determines only whether there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed," Browning explained. "However, a trial jury is bound by a much higher legal standard of proof and must determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt from the evidence presented. For this reason, our office has a duty to continuously investigate and evaluate the strength and merits of every case we prosecute as we prepare it for trial, and Mr. Griffith’s was no exception.” 

The Haralson County Sheriff's Office initially investigated the allegations made against Griffith.

"At that early stage of the investigation, the evidence the Sheriff’s Office had gathered unquestionably justified presenting it to a Grand Jury for indictment, Browning said. "But, our office has a constitutional obligation to ensure the evidence that will be presented at trial will justify a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The constitutional and statutory duties of my office are not simply to convict an alleged offender or put those convicted in prison, but to fairly seek justice in every case, for the accused and the victim, as well as for the citizens of Haralson County and the State of Georgia, generally.” 

Browning e-mailed additional statements Wednesday:

“In virtually every case referred to our office for prosecution, the lives and reputations of the people involved – defendant and victim -- are at stake.  For that reason, we have a duty to carefully evaluate every case we prosecute, from time of arrest to trial, to ensure that no person is convicted on evidence that is legally insufficient nor, on the other hand, allowed to escape justice when the evidence demands a finding of guilt.  That duty also requires we take into account the impact of our decisions about the case on the alleged victim, such as the victim having to take the stand and confront his or her offender at a jury trial, or consider a negotiated plea instead of trial, or dismiss the case altogether.”

"With regard to Mr. Griffith’s case, although our consideration of the case and preparing it for trial was multifaceted, it simply came down to applying the law to the provable facts of the case.  After looking at all of the evidence in the case that would have been presented to a jury, we had to conclude – and believed that a jury would conclude the same -- that while Mr. Griffith’s conduct, through his words and actions as described by the alleged victims, was susceptible to mischaracterization or misinterpretation as being questionably inappropriate, it did not demonstrate any provable criminal intent on his part as required by our criminal laws.” 

Browning added “could Mr. Griffith’s conduct and interactions with his accusers, in hindsight, been open to mischaracterization or misinterpretation by them?  Yes.  But, criminally prosecutable conduct that would have demanded a guilty verdict on the charges?  Based on our investigation and preparation of the case for trial, no.  That being the situation with this case, I can think of no more glaring example of injustice and abuse of our criminal justice system’s constitutional obligations and protections than for my office to essentially force someone to prove his or her innocence where I know that I cannot otherwise prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Browning concluded, stating that “Mr. Griffith’s case, like every criminal case, is a harsh reminder that regardless of the outcome there are no winners in criminal cases, and I hope that all involved in this case can put this unfortunate experience behind them and move forward with their lives.”
Filed Under :
Topics : Law_Crime
Location : GeorgiaHaralson County