The trial for a Knott County man accused of multiple rape and sexual abuse charges allegedly committed against two family members under 12 years of age from 2013-2016 ended after a week-long trial.
During the trial, Jerry Sizemore, of Sassafrass, was facing 89 counts including incest (20 counts), first-degree rape of a victim under 12 years of age (14 counts), incest — forcible compulsion/incapable of consent or under 18 years of age (18 counts), first-degree sexual abuse of a victim under 12 years of age (9 counts), first-degree sodomy of a victim under 12 years of age (12 counts) and first-degree rape (16 counts).
On Friday, Sept. 6, the jury found Sizemore not guilty of all charges.
In his closing statements, Jon Wilder, one of Sizemore’s attorneys, provided a presentation discussing the timeline of events leading up to the accusations, a recap of the trial and evidence presented and mentioning how the strained relationship between Sizemore and the victims’ mother could have played a large role in the start of the allegations. In the presentation, Wilder played video footage of trial clips, as well as clips of the investigation years prior, and showed photos of evidence items as they pertained to his points.
“This is the Commonwealth of Kentucky versus Jerry Sizemore. This is them with every resource that they have — they have their own labs, they have a whole state police post, everyone of them they work for the commonwealth,” said Wilder. The prosecution, Wilder said, has abundant resources and opportunities which should be seen as their biggest advantage, however, he said, they typically misuse or ignore those resources.
“The complete and utter incompetence of the commonwealth, every single case we have of any significance we can depend on it,” said Wilder, explaining that throughout the investigation and trial, the prosecution has failed to do their job.
Det. Vicky Day, with the Kentucky State Police, said Wilder, was one of the main reasons the commonwealth didn’t have the evidence they needed.
“Det. Day didn’t confirm the initial allegation,” said Wilder. “She didn’t check on any medical records.”
Once the forensic interviews were conducted, he said, the detective failed to check the quality of photos from them or ask what the doctor’s findings meant beforehand, and the quality was so bad they were unable to be submitted to evidence, said Wilder.
Dr. Ronald Collier, a pediatrician, did an examination of the victims, but is not board certified to do that form of examinations and diagnose for sexual situations, said Wilder. However, Dr. Collier is one of the only pediatricians in the area who will do those services for the Care Cottage, he said. In his testimony, Dr. Collier agreed that the photos taken of the examination, which were to be used as the commonwealth’s main evidence, were useless. He also read his notes from the examination and said there were small tears on the hymens, but there was no evidence of serious sexual abuse and the physical results are not consistent with the allegations being made.
At nearly all times, there were generally four to six children in the home during the time of the allegations, said Wilder. Due to this, Wilder said, the sleeping arrangements and the layout of the two houses where the allegations were said to have happened were both very important factors in considering the accusations, as just looking at the houses was enough proof to show it wasn’t plausible, he said.
“They’ve been working on this for three years and they found it out during this trial,” said Wilder. Two other female children living in the house and sharing the room with the victims testified, and both said they did not see or hear anything sexual or abusive happening.
Wilder also called into question the alleged victims’ motives in reporting the abuse.
Social services then received an allegation in March 2016 from victim stating that Sizemore was beating his wife, said Wilder.
The social worker involved in the case stated that they found there was insufficient evidence to prove any neglect as a result of this investigation.
The allegations that I had received about neglect were unsubstantiated, there were no grounds,” said the social worker. During the visit, she asked questions about being abused physically or sexually, and both victims said they weren’t. This particular incident, Wilder said, was under two months from the allegations coming out. Once the victims saw that physical abuse wasn’t enough, Wilder said, they began claiming sexual abuse.
“That’s it. That’s how you get charged in Perry County,” Wilder said. “Making your mind up on day one leads to this. You don’t look at any of the evidence, you come to trial and you get surprised by what the evidence is.
“Here’s the most depressing thing about it, this kills me. You’ll never know what evidence you’re missing, what evidence you lost, as the result of a poor investigation,” said Wilder. Day also didn’t get Sizemore’s phone records or obtain other evidence that would have been potentially beneficial, said Wilder, pointing out that the defense did all of those things to the extent they were able.
To end his closing arguments Wilder briefly cross-referenced the footage from trial testimony and from the interviews done at the Care Cottage to demonstrate how the victims’ stories were contradicting and the details had changed.
“There are, time and time again, in this testimony where everything that they (the victims) said can be verified as proven false or they later contradicted their own testimony. That is not good enough to put a man in prison. Having your mind made up at the beginning of an investigation and not following up at all is not good enough to keep Jerry Sizemore from seeing the birthdays of (his kids with current wife),” said Wilder.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Cordell “Buddy” Williams compared the defense’s closing statements to a sports highlight reel, stating that it didn’t show the failures, things they missed, left out or the good things the commonwealth did during the course of the trial. The age of the victims, Williams said, combined with the passage of time should be considered.
“I believe that those kids gave us great and horrific details. You have to take into consideration that this is from the minds of children,” said Williams. “(The victims) are still young kids who testified some three and a half years later about crimes that occurred when they were very young and over the course of several years until something finally snapped in May 2016. Given their young age and the passage of time, their testimony was entirely consistent.
“The defendant, his wife and his mother have had almost three and a half years to prepare for their testimony during this trial. We don’t expect children to be able to think and act as adults. This is especially true for children who are younger than the age of 12, they’re only capable of thinking and acting with a young child’s fragile, egg-shell mind,” said Williams.
“This has been a long, emotional trial. The defendant and his attorneys have done everything that they can to mislead you and confuse you and muddy the water,” Williams continued. “The defense wanted the victims to give numbers. When they did, they said it was excessive and they were lying. When they said they didn’t remember how many times it happened, then clearly they were being coached. That’s their views on this.”
Williams said the defense’s claims of jealousy, and of making up the stories was an absurd notion given the victims’ ages.
“That’s absurd and we know it’s not true. A nine and 10 year old don’t possess the mental abilities to make up what we all know occurred. Anyone capable of committing such heinous acts on his own (family members) will certainly have no qualms about lying to you about it,” said Williams.
After hours of deliberation, the jury returned with the verdict finding Sizemore not guilty of all charges.
“I’m proud of the case we presented. Although I’m disappointed, I respect the jury’s verdict. These types of cases are always tough and emotional,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Blair.