TAMA COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) — Diane Graham has been found not guilty. The Marion elementary teacher was put on trial for failure to report sexual abuse. As a teacher, Graham is a mandatory reporter.
The abuse happened for months at Starry Elementary starting in August 2016. A then 15-year-old in-classroom volunteer was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse.
People present in the courtroom were visibly upset, many crying when they learned of the jury's decision.
That decision was a sealed verdict, something that is allowed in misdemeanor cases. What that means is the verdict isn't read in open court, rather the judge tells the defense and prosecution what the jury has decided away from everyone else. Graham and her attorneys did not stay but family of victims were emotional with the decision.
Thursday was also the day that both the defense and prosecution made their closing statements. The prosecution reminded jurors of victim's testimony where they told Graham about their abuse.
"The defendant didn't do her job," said prosecutor, Andrew Powers. "We heard that straight from Mrs. Graham's mouth yesterday. She never contacted DHS in regards to Logan McMurrin. She never contacted law enforcement."
The defense did not see things the way the state had presented it and told jurors when Graham had reason to believe abuse may have happened, she alerted the principal.
"Did the state bring in anybody from the old Marion Independent School District and say, 'Diane Graham, my golly you're wrong on your email and reporting process.' Where are they?" said defense attorney, Mark Brown.
The prosecutor declined to comment on the verdict. KCRG also reached out to Graham's attorney but we have not yet heard back .
KCRG reached out to Marion Independent School District superintendent, Chris Dyer and asked if Graham had been taken off of administrative leave now that she has been found not guilty. In response he told us in a written statement, "The District is in the process of reviewing Ms. Graham's status." Dyer added, "The District's goal of providing a safe learning environment for students is and always has been of key importance." Dyer also highlights the district "implemented policy changes related to the internal review process" after learning of the abuse.
Graham took questions on the stand from both the defense and prosecution on Wednesday, and she insisted she did nothing wrong. Graham told the court she never saw or heard of any abuse herself while she was teaching at the school.
People who testified in the trial include victims, a forensic interviewer with the St. Luke's Child Protection Center, a kindergarten teacher, a private practice doctor and expert on memory from Michigan, and the Marion police officer who investigated the case, Andrea Wilson.
The jury was made up of six men and two women but only six of them ultimately decided the case as two were alternates.
The trial was in Tama County because of pretrial publicity.