Defendants call witnesses who question veracity of injury photos

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/October 11, 2002
By Steve Visser

The Rev. Arthur Allen Jr. and his four co-defendants spent Friday morning trying to establish that the House of Prayer was more of a house of love than one of pain. They called church members, including a 14-year-old boy, who testified about the pastor's generosity in buying parishioners houses and cars.

The boy, James Smith Jr., testified he had been whipped in the church and that he witnessed whippings. Allen, who contends the state doctored photographs of two boys whipped at the church to make them appear brutally bruised, asked the boy about his experiences.

"When you got a whipping in church did your back or did your body look like this?" Allen asked the boy, showing him the photographs.

"No, sir," said James, who was dressed in a light blue shirt and dark trousers.

"If someone whipped a child like this, do you feel it would be mean and cruel?" Allen asked.

The diminutive James bobbed his head. "Yes, sir."

Allen and his co-defendants are charged with cruelty to children. They called an aunt and the father of one of the boys who they're accused of abusing to testify that Ricky Wilson Jr. did not sustain bruises like those depicted in prosecutors' photos when church members whipped him in February 2001. The father and mother are also indicted in the case but are not on trial this week.

The aunt, Carla Wilson, testified that since state law allows bruises she didn't see anything wrong with a whipping that left some bruises. But she agreed the bruises depicted in the pictures were unacceptable. She said she suspected the photos were a product of "trick photography."

Both she and Ricky Wilson Sr. sparred with prosecutors over the photographs. In one tense moment, Ricky Wilson Sr. would only identify this son's head in the photo. He contended that the bruised body belonged to someone else.

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