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Man convicted of molesting girl, 6, dies during appeal

9-22-2016 Georgia:

A life sentence became a death sentence for 64-year-old Robert “Buddy” Turner.

The Columbus man who maintained his innocence after he was sentenced to life for aggravated child molestation two years ago has died in state custody.

A sister testifying at his sentencing on Jan. 14, 2015, said she feared he would not survive an extended prison sentence. A brother-in-law told Judge William Rumer the case had turned the former construction worker into "an aging, frail, broken man.”

Defense attorneys said Turner’s health declined precipitously in prison, where he did not get the medical care he needed.

On Oct. 20, 2016, authorities brought Turner to Columbus for an Oct. 26 court hearing. As his health worsened, medical workers at the Muscogee County Jail had Turner taken to Columbus’ Midtown Medical Center, which later transferred him to a hospital in Atlanta.

He died there on Nov. 26, his attorneys said. His case will be closed now, ending the appeal.

“It’s just a shame that we didn’t get it finished before Buddy died,” said attorney Robert Wadkins Sr., who was handling Turner’s case. “I truly believe that if Judge Rumer had not granted us a new trial, then the Court of Appeals would have reversed him.”

Turner suffered from liver failure, internal bleeding and Hepatitis C, Wadkins said, adding his client needed a liver transplant. “I feel like he never had a chance to get a transplant because he was convicted of aggravated child molestation,” the attorney said.

A jury on Jan. 9, 2015, convicted Turner on charges of groping a 6-year-old girl in 2012.

The girl told investigators she was sitting in Turner’s lap at his home when he groped her between the legs and “dug” with his hand until he penetrated her, causing an injury. The girl reported this when she began having pain while urinating. A medical examination revealed she had a urinary tract infection.

Prosecutors said this happened between Aug. 4 and Aug. 17, 2012, when Turner was 59 years old.

Turner, his family and attorneys claimed the girl made up the story to cover for a brother who had karate-chopped her in the groin.

During Turner’s October hearing for a new trial, Wadkins questioned Will Kirby, the lawyer who defended Turner during the trial, asking why Kirby did not summon to the stand an emergency room doctor whose report on the girl’s examination showed “no apparent trauma” to the child.

Kirby said he got the doctor’s report admitted into the trial evidence, and decided not to subpoena the doctor lest the physician take the stand and backtrack on his initial report, lessening its impact. Kirby said he had expected the prosecution to summon the doctor.

Wadkins also called to the stand Jennifer Curry, who helped Kirby defend Turner, and asked why she didn’t call witnesses who could say the girl was known to make things up.

Curry said she cross-examined the girl: “I had her admit that she enjoyed telling stories,” whether the tales were true or not, Curry said, adding she also got the child to acknowledge rough play with her brothers, which could have led to injuries.

She did not press the girl on the facts of the case, believing the child was too young to have an adult’s comprehension of time and circumstance, she said.

In opposing granting Turner a new trial, Assistant District Attorney Ray Daniel filed a motion saying defense attorneys’ bashing the girl in court would have backfired.

“By most interpretations it would be a horrific trial strategy to attack a 6-year-old victim’s bad character in a child molestation case,” Daniel wrote.

Wadkins also criticized trial attorneys for not calling more witnesses to attest to Turner’s “good character,” which could have been enough to persuade jurors to acquit him.

Testifying at Turner’s sentencing, the victim’s mother said Turner stole her child’s innocence and caused lingering trauma.

"She wet the bed and had nightmares for over a year,” the mother said. “Then it slowly stopped until there were no more nightmares or accidents. Then we had to come testify at the trial and the accidents and nightmares began again. We spent so many restless nights then getting her to sleep because of the nightmares."

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Turner began serving his life sentence Feb. 11, 2015. ..Source.. by Tim Chitwood:

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