Day eight of Michael Tate's murder trial was a glimpse into the early years of the now19-year-old, who has plead not guilty of murdering his friend’s father because he was, perhaps he still is, insane. Although Tate was a juvenile at the time of the crime, he is being tried as an adult. And as the jury listened to the testimony in his case, news broke that Governor Bill Ritter established a 7-member clemency board to review clemency petitions by people sentenced as adults for crimes that they committed as juveniles.
Through much of the district attorney’s cross examinations, Tate covered his ears.
The first witness was the defense’s last witness called to testify the day before, Lana Holmes, a former Jefferson County social services caseworker who testified that Tate was added to her caseload after he was taken from his home at age three, when the boy’s mother failed to comply with the county’s plan to teach her how to raise him. The parenting rights of both of Tate’s parents were then terminated.
By kindergarten he was acting out, one of his bolder stunts was throwing a backpack at a busdriver.
It was also in kindergarten, one of the D.A.’s witness had told the jury the day before, that Tate killed two hamsters and took them home in his pocket. The defense’s Holmes testified that Tate loved the hamsters, never meant them any harm.
“He was surprised that they died, he liked them, they were soft and cuddly,” Holmes told the jury.
Later in the day, a former Jefferson County adoption case worker, Alice Johnson, gave the jury a peak into how difficult her four-year attempt to find Tate an adoptive family was because of the behaviors that Tate exhibited at an early age, a list that had grown to include hiding food in his room, hallucinations, banging his head, biting himself, suicide attempts, urinating all over foster homes, setting fires indoors and shoplifting. Some of the many foster families that he lived with could deal with the problem child for a while, one family was even ready to adopt until Tate once again proved too much to handle.
It was early in life, Johnson testified, when the sexually aggressive behaviors toward others started to show in Tate, an indication to her that he had been sexually molested as a child, perhaps prior to learning to speak. Her suspicions were confirmed, albeit they remain unfounded, in 1994, when Tate was living at one of several residential treatment facilities and told one of the facility's workers that he had learned all about sex from his mother, who forced him to watch her engage in intercourse. She also allegedly digitally penetrated Tate and forced him to do the same to her, and to a cat, or a dog, or both.
Johnson came to tears recalling the flood of traumatic memories that ensued for the then-seven-year-old as he came to grips with an assault that he claimed happened five years before. He was told he was not adoptable, which began his life of moves between foster care, residential treatment facilities, group homes and psychiatric hospitals. Right up until he ran away from one and murdered Steven Fitzgerald.
-- Luke Turf
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