WARNING: The story below contains graphic details about an alleged sex crime involving a child. Understandably, this is offensive. Read at your own risk.
Defense Attorney Ryan Deaton of Lufkin (standing) questions Craig Finnegan. Defendant Joe Cochran is seated next to Deaton.
Two Year Investigation Culminates in a Trial and Verdict of Not Guilty, LIVINGSTON, April 20, 2011 - Not Guilty. That was the verdict delivered by a Polk County Jury in the Trial of Joseph Herman Cochran, 74, of Corrigan. The verdict was reached shortly after 6:30 pm on April 20, 2011 in Judge Elizabeth Coker's District Court. Cochran was facing a minimum of 25 years in TDC had he been found guilty by a jury of 12 of his peers. The investigation began around July of 2009 and was established on the words of a 4 year old girl (now 6 yrs. old) The alleged victim led law enforcement to believe that Cochran rubbed his "middle part" on her anus and genital area to completion several times over a 2 year period when Cochran and his wife were baby sitting the child.
Additionally, Cochran was accused of showing her porn movies when the victim alluded to what she termed "people hunching" that she saw on his television. Polk County Detective Craig Finnegan investigated the alleged crime. Finnegan arrested Cochran and charged him sexual assault of a child. Finnegan also executed a search warrant and confiscated a computer, over 60 VHS tapes, satellite TV records and Cochran's DVR. The search turned up no porn at all. The tapes were reportedly western movies and other harmless movies. A forensic investigation of the computer turned up no porn and the DVR's memory banks contained no porn. In a video taped interview showed in court, Finnegan sat down with Cochran and accused him of molesting the child. Cochran denied the accusation and insisted that at the age of 74 and after 4 heart attacks and 2 strokes he isn't sexually active anymore. Finnegan insisted and told Cochran that he had a sexual problem and that he wanted to help him with his problem. "I can't help you unless you're honest with me" Finnegan said in the interview. "I've been investigating these things for 16 years..." Finnegan said, "I'm telling you that you have a sexual problem and I want to help you". The taped interview lasted for over an hour and towards the end, after being verbally accused by Finnegan over and over, Cochran stated to Finnegan that he went into the pool (a small wading pool) once with no clothes on with the child and that he quickly left the pool after entering. Cochran also said that the girl climbed up on his lap once and touched his penis (through his clothing) and that he put her down. He then stated that he may have went to far with her once.
In another interview, a professional who specializes in interviewing children who are victims of molestation, the girl was asked what was done to her by Cochran and the girl stated that he put his middle part on her, on her butt and her "toochie" and that silver stuff came out of him. The girl also stated that she might be lying and that she was a liar.
The girl took the witness stand and was questioned and cross examined. First Assistant District Attorney, Joe Martin, talked to the girl and asked her questions like what she likes to watch on TV and other questions to help her relax. When Martin brought up the accusations, the girls demeanor changed and her care free aura vanished as she became still and her face very serious. Her story was consistent about his "middle part" touching her butt and "too too". She stated that silver stuff came out of him.
Lots of Accusations, But Not Enough Evidence to Support It... An examination for any trauma that may have been caused by the alleged molestation revealed nothing. The nurse that examined the girl took the witness stand and stated that it's not unusual for victims of sexual abuse to have normal examinations that show no trauma. The nurse stated that the tissue in the anus and genital area of the female anatomy is very vascular and heals very quickly. "The vaginal area is designed for sexual intercourse" she said, "...because of this, it expands and then retains it's shape and heals quickly". According to the nurse (who is trained in sexual abuse exams), even if there is not penetration, but just pressure on the outside of the vagina, damage can occur to the interior. In spite of the approximate 2 years of alleged abuse, the exam revealed no signs of trauma.
Investigator Craig Finnegan took the witness stand and was grilled by Defense Attorney Ryan Deaton of Lufkin. "You did a search of the home, confiscated over 60 VHS tapes, a computer, satellite TV records and DVR and found no porn anywhere, there's no physical evidence of molestation, no forensic evidence, the girl stated she's a liar and you threw my client in jail" Deaton stated to Finnegan.
Closing arguments of the trial wrapped up shortly before 6 pm. Deaton stated to the jury that if you take a 74 year old man that's had 4 heart attacks and 2 strokes and bully him enough you can get him to say just about anything. The jury deliberated for less than one hour and returned a verdict of not guilty. Ryan Deaton was hugged by the family of Cochran. One family member was heard saying that now Joe will be able to sleep good after two years. Deaton stated to PolkCountyToday.com after the trial that he felt his client was bullied into a partial confession. "I'm just happy for the family" Deaton said.
Not Guilty: Joseph Cochran (center) is flanked by his wife (right) and his attorney, Ryan Deaton at the conclusion of the trial in which he was exonerated.
Tears of joy: Family members of Joe Cochran hug at the conclusion of the trial.
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