Prosecutors will walk a fine line today when presenting evidence in the trial of Michael Dillard Birchfield.
An indictment alleges Birchfield possessed child pornography Aug. 11, 2011, and charges him with 30 counts of exploitation of a minor.
Unlike evidence presented at other trials – from murder weapons to video footage – prosecutors take caution when presenting child pornography in court.
“Juries just have to understand when you have a crime like this ... it’s truly shocking,” District Attorney Ashley Wright said. “You have to prepare them for that.”
While the defendant has the right to review the evidence against him, measures are taken to keep the images out of the public. Birchfield was indicted Jan. 10 and a court order sealing the original indictment and its exhibits was issued that same day.
A text-only indictment available to the public provides descriptions of the images instead, from “lewd exhibition of the genitals and pubic area of a minor” to “oral-genital intercourse with a minor.”
Even with plea bargains, judges have to review the evidence before sentencing and it’s clear from their expressions how distateful the images are, said Wright, who is not prosecuting Birchfield’s case, but has extensive experience in the area.
For jurors, typically viewing one image is sufficient.
“It’s just repulsive; it really is,” Wright said.