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Defense rests; Chritton doesn't testify in trial

Published On: Mar 13 2013 05:34:40 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 13 2013 10:09:54 PM CDT
Chad Chritton

Closing arguments are set for Thursday in the trial of a Madison man accused of abusing his teenage daughter.

Chad Chritton is charged with party to five felonies, including false imprisonment and child neglect resulting in bodily harm.

Dane County prosecutors have said the 15-year-old girl was locked in the basement and denied food by her family until she wasted away to 68 pounds.

In a somewhat surprising move, Chritton told the judge late Wednesday that he had decided to testify.

Chritton's decision didn't sit well with his attorney. The two left the courtroom and spoke privately.

When they returned, Chritton announced he had changed his mind and he assured the judge it was a decision he'd made, not his attorney.

Chritton said his learning disabilities prevented him from clearly following lines of questioning and previous testimony, and he didn't want to jeopardize the case.

"With my comprehension and learning disabilities, I'm getting lost," Chritton said. "If I were to testify, I don't think people would understand my answers, and I want people to know I'm innocent."

The defense, having no more witnesses to call, rested Wednesday.

The prosecution also rested after a short testimony by a rebuttal witness from Dane County Human Services.

Chritton's attorney, William Hayes, attempted to get a mistrial Wednesday, arguing the prosecution was out of line when it questioned Hayes' witness, Dr. Rick Barney. Barney treated Chritton's daughter.

Hayes argued the prosecution insinuated Chritton wasn't cooperating with authorities after he'd been arrested on suspicion of abuse.

The judge agreed with Hayes that the constitution gives an accused person the right to refuse to talk. The judge drafted a corrected response for the jury that she read, saying: "I do think that crossed a line and that we do need to give instruction to the jury so that they understand that Mr. Chritton had a constitutional right to remain silent once he was arrested."

The nearly three-week-long trial will be in the hands of the jury after Thursday's closing arguments.

Chritton had been facing six felonies but the court on Wednesday dismissed a charge of failure to act to prevent sexual assault of a child, saying there wasn't enough evidence to support the charge.

Chritton's wife, Melinda Drabek-Chritton, is charged with six felonies, including child abuse and neglect. The girl's stepbrother has been accused of sexually assaulting her.

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