Special Report: The camera the leads to convictions - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: The camera the leads to convictions

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Every two-and-a-half minutes, someone is sexually assaulted. Through technologically advanced high-tech equipment, those abusers are being caught, with an innovative camera that can tell the difference between a rope and an electrical chord, with the flash of a camera shutter.

It catches what the naked eye can't see, the lightest skin discoloration from a bruise, and it's pictures mean the difference between 10 and life in prison.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In sexual abuse or assault cases this camera is worth its weight in gold. "This is the bomb of cameras," said Candy Bell of The Lily Pad.

When the Robinson's case against the woman who struck their daughter at her day care goes forward it could provide vital pictures in the courtroom. In July, then four year old Alicia Robinson told her parents Tamika Thomas at the Step by Step daycare in south Albany beat on her. She was photographed at the Lily Pad with the Secure Digital Forensic Imaging camera.

"A bruise in particular if it was not a big blue, red bruise then that camera would not pick it up. This one will pick up the faintest of colors any discoloration, it can be a birthmark," said Bell.

What's also unique about this camera is as you zoom in closer, the image is not distorted, in fact it's good enough to pick up old scars.

"There, right there maybe broken, that's a vaccination scar," said Bell.

Allowing a forensic nurses to take a closer look at injuries like Alicia's. "That looks like maybe a bedroom shoe or a tennis shoe."

Magnifying clues as to how many times a child may have been hit. "You can see what looks like an ending mark there, an ending mark there, and it looks like an ending mark there, like hit, multiple times."

It's much more advanced than the center's other camera a Culposcope. "That's 1920's technology and while it's still used in sexual assault programs across the country, she shared with him that there was some state of the art equipment out there,"  said Lily Pad Director Karen Kemp.

So Phoebe helped the Lily Pad buy the SDFI camera and software worth over $40,000. It's worked so well, the center will buy another camera with a recent donation.

"We are going to purchase another camera like this it will be shared by the two judicial circuits down there and very soon we'll be doing the same forensic medical exams in those counties," Kemp said.

Saving a victim a 60 mile drive to be seen. The Lily Pad is also one of 26 pilot centers in the state to get new Telehealth equipment that will let them share these images with other doctors for a second opinion to what they're seeing.

"With the magnification of the camera we were able to determine it was not just a looped weapon that was used, it was not a smooth chord that was used when you magnified it up you could see it was a spiral effect and indeed it was a rope that was used," said Bell.

Especially when they're unsure if a case may be abuse. While this evidence has yet to be used in court because of case backlogs.

"We will be using it in the near future as soon as we number on process cases with it," said Greg Edwards, Dougherty District Attorney.

The District Attorney's office feels its an important tool. "A lot of times the offenders will tell police and tell the child to tell investigators well you fell that's how you got that injury. When you can show that the injury was made by whatever means that's the way to certainly bring to light the truth of what happened," Edwards said.

It has the Robinson's hopeful they'll get justice when this case goes to court. A confidence boost for the forensic team that the images their camera is giving them, backs up their statement in court making this no ordinary camera, but the camera that leads to convictions. 

The Lily Pad is a not-for profit organization. In the last two years they've seen state funding for sexual assault centers cut by 47%.

Last year they had more people reach out for help than ever before.

 


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