Appeals court reviews Titusville child porn case

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Federal appeals judges today heard arguments about how much is too much when prosecutors present images of child pornography to a jury at trial.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the case of Craig Alan Finley, 36, of Titusville, who was convicted in U.S. District Court in Erie and sentenced just more than a year ago to 50 years in prison.

"The jurors saw 16 exhibits containing child pornography," said Assistant Federal Public Defender Karen Sirianni Gerlach. "Pre-pubescent boys sexually tortured by adult men. ... When you have images that are so inflammatory that jurors are crying, more than one of them ... some of this was over the top."

She said the defense offered to stipulate that there was child pornography on Finley's computer and argued that it was placed there by someone else, but the prosecution would not agree to the language in the proposed stipulations.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton personally argued the prosecution's position.

"The government is entitled to prove its case," he said, noting that in a child pornography case "the crime is the image."

"We're talking about 30,000 videos, hours of videos" on Finley's computer, he said. "We showed minutes, with no sound. He was taking pictures of his nephew on his cell phone."

Last year the 3rd Circuit ordered a new trial for a man from Eighty Four who was convicted after a jury was showed child pornography images that were not first reviewed by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.

In Finley's case, the images were first viewed by U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill, who ruled that they were proper evidence.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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