As a parent advocate, I don’t only hear from parents, I hear from teens. Joni Poole is someone very special. Joni has possessed strength, dignity and courage through some horrific events. She is no longer a victim - she is a survivor and one that has a strong message to all others. She has created a website and advocacy group (Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault and Rape Awareness) to educate others and hopefully prevent sexual abuse and assualt. Take a moment to read her story and pass it on - you don’t know who may benefit.
My name is Joni Poole. I am a 17 year old Senior in high school. I am telling my story in hopes that it will help others who have been a victim of a sexual crime. I have also provided Public Information, from the Georgia Department of Corrections, about my offender within my story.
On August 22, 2007, I was at work at a Toy Breed Dog Kennel. Near the end of my shift, around 7:45 P.M., I was raped by my second cousin/co-worker/manager, Martin Malone Griffin. As soon as I could leave my workplace, I immediately began calling my mother from my cell phone. I drove about a mile down the road to her job. We then went to the hospital and had a rape kit performed. This began the process of pressing charges. From that moment on, the next year of my life would become a living nightmare. Investigators did not want to believe me. They told us that there was no way it was rape. Due to me turning 16 nineteen days prior (the assault happened August 22, 2007 and my 16th birthday was August 3, 2007) to the attack, Marty could not be arrested for statutory rape. DNA tests were performed and proved that the he was in fact the perpetrator of the crime. The magistrate judge would not give us a warrant for his arrest due to lack of evidence, so he said. Although by law, all that is needed to secure a warrant is probable cause. We had probable cause and DNA evidence, which was more than enough for a warrant. However, no matter what others said, I was not going to give up.
The day the Magistrate Judge told us there was no probable cause, we turned to the Assistant District Attorney. Much to my relief she wanted to help. She was enraged at how I had been treated by the Magistrate Court and decided to pursue the case. The case was brought before a Grand Jury. I had to testify and tell the Jury my account of what happened. This was extremely hard and embarrassing for me. The Grand Jury agreed to issue a warrant for his arrest. A few weeks later we went back to court for jury selection. The jury was chosen and trial was set for the next day. However, the original investigator hurt himself in an accident and would not be able to attend court. Therefore, court was rescheduled for September 22, 2008, 1 year and 1 month after the rape occurred.
Due to court being postponed, we had to pick a new jury Monday, September 22, 2008. Our case was possibly going to have to be postponed once again due to the two other criminal cases ahead of us. However, the two cases ahead of us plead out, therefore, our case was moved up to Wednesday, September 24. We began trial at 2:00 pm. on Wednesday. After opening arguments, it was time for me to testify. I was so scared and nervous. I could not stand the thought of being in the same room as the man who had raped me. The questions I was asked were difficult and embarrassing to answer.
I felt terrified, embarrassed, angry, and experienced many other emotions the entire time I was on the stand. I also had to stand in front of the Jury and show them a map of the building I had drawn to give them an illustration of where the rape took place. After the Assistant District Attorney asked me questions, it was time for me to be cross-examined by the Defense Attorney. He asked very difficult and sometimes confusing questions. However, I stood strong and did not let him shake me. I kept my eyes focused on the Jury, my family and supporters, and the Assistant District Attorney. I did this because to look at Marty would cause to experience flashbacks of the rape.
I was already weeping from the questions and having to remember and tell every detail. I did not need to have a panic attack. I can remember looking out into the crowd to my aunt and other family members crying. They were there in support of me, but they had never heard my full story. They did not expect me to be interrogated like I was that day. After I finished testifying I was released and asked to return to the witness room. I felt satisfied with my testimony and so was the Assistant District Attorney.
A few more people testified Wednesday and the case was put on hold until the next day. We began trial again the next morning. The last of the witnesses testified Thursday morning. After testimonies were finished it was time for closing arguments. The defense attorney called me a “liar” many times and said, “if my client is convicted based on a liar’s testimony, then we need to burn this courthouse down and plant a turnip patch.” He also tried to discredit me many times. After closing arguments the Judge told us to remain at the courthouse until the verdict was reached. She charged the jury. They were told what the charges were and the definition of each charge. He was charged with:
Count 1: Rape
…[Rape occurs when sex is non-consensual (not agreed upon), or a person forces another person to have sex against his or her will. It also can occur when the victim is intoxicated from alcohol or drugs. Rape includes intercourse in the vagina, anus, or mouth. It is a felony offense, which means it is among the most serious crimes a person can commit. Rape is a crime that can happen to men, women, or children.]…
Count 2: False Imprisonment
…[The illegal confinement of one individual against his or her will by another individual in such a manner as to violate the confined individual's right to be free from restraint of movement.]…
Count 3: Sexual Battery
…[A person commits the offense of sexual battery when he or she intentionally makes physical contact with the intimate parts of the body of another person without the consent of that person.]…
After charges were read, the Jury went to the Jury room for deliberation. Marty was offered a plea bargain of 1 year in boot camp, 10 years probation, and Sex Offender Registry. He was able to accept this verdict until the Jury came back with a verdict. However, he REFUSED this lenient deal, several times. After 2 and 1/2 hours the Jury came back with their verdict.
The Jury’s verdict was…
Count 1: Rape…GUILTY-
Count 2: False Imprisonment…NOT GUILTY-
Count 3: Sexual Battery…GUILTY