Defense opens in abuse trial

BRISTOW — The first defense witness at the child-abuse trial for Raye Dawn Smith said Monday the mother wanted an autopsy to find out why her 2-year-old daughter died in 2005, but her new husband opposed it.
By Nolan Clay Modified: August 23, 2009 at 9:02 pm •  Published: July 17, 2007
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BRISTOW — The first defense witness at the child-abuse trial for Raye Dawn Smith said Monday the mother wanted an autopsy to find out why her 2-year-old daughter died in 2005, but her new husband opposed it.

Jurors also were told Smith cooperated with the Department of Human Services earlier in the year to get her daughter back. They were told she went to DHS-required classes after work, even on her wedding day.

"She knew that's just the way it had to be, to get through it. She accepted it,” Gayla Smith, the defendant's mother, said of the classes.

Raye Dawn Smith, 27, is charged with child abuse or enabling child abuse. Her daughter, Kelsey Smith-Briggs, died Oct. 11, 2005, at their home near Meeker.

Prosecutors allege she either abused Kelsey herself or let her then-husband, Michael Lee Porter, abuse the child. She denies wrongdoing.

The testimony from the defendant's mother came on the sixth day of the trial. More relatives will testify today. The defendant is not expected to testify herself.

Jurors could begin deliberating Thursday.

Defense attorneys are trying to show that Kelsey's mother did not behave like someone who abused or killed her own daughter and that she couldn't have known her husband would.

Gayla Smith said her daughter wanted to know why Kelsey died but Porter did not want an autopsy. "He said, ‘They're not going to cut her open, are they?” the witness testified.

She also said her daughter cooperated with prosecutors and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in the probe of the death.

However, Gayla Smith admitted — when questioned by the prosecution — that they had begun to worry about Porter shortly before Kelsey's death, particularly after he taped Kelsey's eyes shut while playing.

"We was starting to watch him,” Gayla Smith said.

During the trial, jurors have been told Kelsey suffered a series of injuries, including broken bones and bruises, starting in January 2005. She was taken from her mother for awhile, and then split time between her mother and her paternal grandmother while DHS workers investigated the injuries.

Kelsey was placed with her maternal grandmother, Gayla Smith, on May 3, 2005. That was a day after an Oklahoma City doctor, Andy Sullivan, determined her broken legs were from child abuse. A judge returned Kelsey to her mother in mid-June 2005, after a DHS worker reported she had completed a treatment plan.

Prosecutors called 22 witnesses before completing their evidence at noon Monday. The final witness, Dr. Robert Block, was a child abuse expert who called the tragedy an example of battered child syndrome because of Kelsey's repeated injuries.

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