Stepfather Testifies In Ex-Wife's Child-Abuse Trial

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

BRISTOW, Okla. (AP) _ The stepfather of a slain Meeker toddler testified Tuesday in his ex-wife's child-abuse trial that he witnessed the woman abuse the child on several occasions but never reported it to authorities.

Michael Porter, 27, who took the stand wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, testified for the prosecution against Raye Dawn Smith, who is charged with felony child abuse in the Oct. 11, 2005, death of her daughter, 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs.

Porter was charged with first-degree murder and child sexual abuse in the case, but pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He testified that he believes Smith is responsible for the toddler's death and that he made a mistake by never reporting his ex-wife.

``I said a lot of things to cover up for her,'' Porter said. ``I would have rather believed anything than my wife killed her.''

Porter cited three specific instances of abuse that he witnessed, including once when he alleged Smith hit Kelsey with a closed fist in the stomach.

The state medical examiner's office ruled Kelsey died from blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

``I was protecting the wrong person. I was protecting my wife, and it was a mistake,'' Porter said. ``I'm paying for it, and Kelsey paid for it.''

Smith's attorney, Steve Huddleston, contended Porter sexually assaulted and killed the little girl, and questioned why Porter first called the child's grandmother instead of 911 to report her injuries on the day she died.

``The first thing that goes on in everyone's mind is, 'call 911,''' Huddleston said. Porter said he couldn't say why he dialed the grandmother first.

Huddleston also asked Porter why he put a diaper on the child after he noticed she was seriously injured.

``You knew what you did,'' Huddleston said, ``and you didn't want anyone to find that she was naked from the bottom down.''

While Porter testified, the girl's father, Lance Briggs, sat on the edge of the court bench, arms crossed across his chest, and stared at Porter.

Huddleston cited several instances where Porter wrote a letter and testified on Smith's behalf, saying she was fit to be a parent and could properly care for Kelsey. He also questioned why Porter had never before reported the abuses he claimed to have witnessed.

``You never saw Raye Dawn ever hurt Kelsey, and that's the truth,'' Huddleston said.

During testimony earlier in the day, the judge called a brief recess after Smith started sobbing uncontrollably during testimony about the child's physical condition from Dr. Inas Yacoub, a forensic pathologist with the state Medical Examiner's office in Oklahoma City.

Prosecutors also showed the seven-woman, five-man jury graphic photos depicting the toddler covered with cuts and bruises when she arrived at the medical examiner's office for an autopsy. One of the photos showed the small child, her toenails still painted orange, wearing a T-shirt and a bloodstained diaper. Part of an IV was still in the child's arm, and there was a breathing tube in her mouth.

Some of the pictures were so graphic that some people in the courtroom looked away, but jurors appeared transfixed.

Minutes before the graphic pictures were shown, Briggs and some family members left the courtroom.

The defense presented evidence from a second autopsy performed on the child in 2006 that suggested Kelsey's injuries were the result of forcible sexual assault. Huddleston said at the time of the assault, Porter weighed about 270 pounds, enough to cause the injuries on Kelsey.

Dr. Yacoub said the injuries could have been caused by a sexual assault, but said she could ``not comfortably say this is the only way it could happen.''

Jurors also heard from volunteer firefighter John David Jenkins, who was first to arrive at Smith's Meeker home after an emergency call was made. Jenkins testified that Kelsey was not breathing and had no pulse when he began administering CPR.

``There was chaos everywhere, people screaming and hollering,'' Jenkins said.

In the time before Kelsey's death, she was home alone first with her mother and later, for a short time, with Porter.

In 2006, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act, which strengthens training of court-appointed child advocates and makes judges more accountable for their rulings in child-placement cases.

It also augments the ability of state agencies, including the state Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, to act on behalf of children in abusive homes.

The trial resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Watch the video: Testimony Begins In Child Abuse Trial

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