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Joseph Daniels Trial: What the jury should consider if they hear from child witnesses

Joe Clyde
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 19:45:46-04

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As jury selection gets underway in Joe Clyde Daniels murder trial, NewsChannel 5 has learned that Baby Joe's older brother, who was eight years old when his brother went missing, will likely be called as a witness during his father's murder trial.

The night that Joe Clyde went missing, he was sleeping in the same bed as his older brother, who is now 11 years old. NewsChannel 5's Nick Beres reports that when investigators initially spoke to the older brother, his answers didn't make a lot of sense. But now, we're told, his memory has gotten better and recently shared new details about what happened that night to investigators.

"That happens often in cases with children that come up for testifying and also even adult," said Dr. Bradley Freeman, Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Freeman says that's to be expected because his brain is still developing. "With children, it may take some time for them to develop the skills to communicate what they experienced," he said.

So Freeman suggests if Joe Clyde's brother ends up being called as a witness, that the attorneys keep their questions simple and factual. "Children have more difficulty with responding to questions like why did this happen or how did this happen. They’re usually better at providing more concrete responses," said Dr. Freeman.

Freeman says it will also be crucial for Judge David Wolfe to make sure that the attorneys don't step out of line during his testimony and that the child is as comfortable as possible to ease any anxiety.

The boy's memory could also be influenced by any trauma he's experienced. Freeman says he may also feel conflicted about testifying against his own father, who will be sitting in the courtroom. "They don’t want to necessarily go against a parent, especially if they have a strong attraction or attachment to that particular parent. It could be very difficult for them," said Freeman.

That being said, the opposite could also happen. "They are very willing to talk about what happened and then even embellish some of what’s happened in the past," explained Freeman.

So the jury will have a lot to consider if they end up hearing the testimony. As for the rest of us, he hopes we'll choose empathy. "The children -- they didn’t ask to be witnesses, they didn’t ask for these events to happen, whether they did or they didn’t, so the community should not criticize," he said.

Testimony from one or both of Joe Clyde's brothers could be critical for the prosecution to show Joseph Daniel's taped confession to a jury. Under Tennessee law, the state has to prove to the judge that they have evidence to back up a confession, in order for it to be included.