Witness testifies in closed courtroom

Published 6:57 pm Monday, April 29, 2013

Shawn Godley

Shawn Godley


Jury selection was completed and the trial of Shawn Carlos Godley got under way Monday in Beaufort County Superior Court.

The courtroom was cleared for the first witness.

Godley has been charged with three counts of first-degree rape of a child, alleged to have taken place between June 1 and Aug. 20, 2011. The defendant also has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a child, said to have taken place between June 1 and June 30 of the same year.

In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Chad Stoop said that Godley had taken advantage of a “quasi-familial” relationship — the 11-year-old girl knew him as her “uncle” — several times over the June to August span of time.

Godley’s defense attorney, Mark Haggard, in response, said Godley had maintained his innocence from when the incidents were first reported in September 2011, and the fact there was no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses would prove his innocence.

Stoop called the victim of the alleged crime as his first witness, requested that all nonessential personnel be removed from the courtroom, citing a precedent of Waller vs. Georgia, which, in general, states that the Sixth Amendment — the right to the right to a speedy and public trial — can give way under compelling circumstances. In this case, Stoop argued that given the victim’s age at the time of the crime and her current age, testifying in front of the open court would be too difficult and made for compelling reasons to close the court to the public.

Godley’s defense attorney, Mark Haggard, objected to a closed courtroom, claiming that since Godley has been accused “of a most vile crime” his accuser should stand up and confront Godley in public.

Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr. ruled in favor of the prosecution, and all persons outside of family, defense, prosecution, witnesses and court personnel were asked to leave the courtroom for the testimony and were not called back before the end of the day. The trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m.