After hearing evidence for five weeks, on October 29 the jury began to hear closing arguments in the child-abuse case against Jeffrey Barton, the former master of schools at Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad. Attorneys are expected to finish up their closing remarks Monday, November 2.
Barton, now 57, pleads not guilty to 20 felony charges, most of which describe sex acts allegedly performed between Barton and victims. There are also allegations that sex acts were performed on unconscious victims; the prosecutor has claimed that Barton fed drug-laced brownies and pizza to his intended victims.
Barton chose not to testify in his own defense.
In her first closing arguments, prosecutor Tracy Prior told the jury that Barton carefully chose his victims: she declared that he targeted the most vulnerable boys within his reach — the small one or the one who got teased or the boy who was pushed aside during difficult times in his family.
The prosecutor alleged that Barton abused boys over a 30-year career, first at the Aiken Preparatory School in South Carolina, then the McCallie School in Tennessee, and finally at the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, where he was arrested two years ago (he has been held in custody since). The prosecutor alleges a pattern of abuse.
Prior said she brought forward seven alleged victims, all adults now, who testified as witnesses, and they described for the jury “the snake in their dreams.”
“The victims told you what they were trying to forget,” the prosecutor said. “Some cried because they regretted not coming forward sooner.”
But defense attorney Daniel Greene questioned the testimony of the seven John Does. “Do you believe them? Beyond a reasonable doubt?” Greene asked to the jury. “It is a credibility issue.” The lead defense attorney told the jury they could not make decisions based on fear, rumor, emotion, or conjecture. “Shock and awe is not evidence,” said Greene, who was the most visible of the team of two attorneys plus two law clerks who are defending Barton.
Greene told the jury: “Fear and rumor is not evidence.” He said, “A fable is a made-up story that is repeated over and over again, over the years....
“Mr. Barton is on trial for crimes he didn’t commit,” Greene declared. He asserted that Barton was put on trial because “some people do not like him.” He suggested that Barton appeared odd to some people because he lived alone, was not married, and he chose to live on campus with the students. But, Greene explained, “He is a single man who has devoted his life to being an educator.”
Defense demanded of the jury, “Don’t make decisions based on things you don’t know, on speculation.” Greene reminded the jury that in our system, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof rests on the prosecutor. “We don’t have to prove a thing.”
“Probably guilty is not good enough,” Greene cautioned the jury of six men and six women. Greene is expected to continue his closing argument Monday morning, and then prosecutor Prior will be allowed her final, closing remarks before the jury of six men and six women begin their deliberations.
Prior told the jury early in her remarks: “‘Verdict’ is Latin for ‘truth.’” She said of the trial process, “It’s a search for what the truth is.”
Judge Harry Elias presides over this case in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.