Local News

Prosecution, Defense Rest In Case of Evangelist Charged With Child Abuse

Posted January 13, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST

— Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases Friday in the trial of Howard Hunichen, an evangelist charged with child abuse. Hunichen never took the stand in his own defense.

The prosecution ended its case with a video of Zachary Fortner, at age seven months, with Laurie Stall, a pediatric occupational therapist.

Stall has been working with Zachary since June. She testified in court Friday that at 16 months old, his progress is slow, and his prognosis is not good.

"Improvement is very seldom seen," Stall said. "I would feel safe in saying that Zachary, next to a miracle, will not walk or stand."

After the prosecution rested, the defense presented character witnesses who say Hunichen is a honest, nonviolent, godly man.

"I think he believes the Bible completely," said Joe Matthews, a witness for the defense. "In this day and age, that is very rare."

Another witness, Sharon Robinson, said Hunichen was a very forthright person.

"He's very open about himself, and he is very honest," Matthews said.

Hunichen chose not to take the stand, a decision he felt he needed to explain to the judge.

"I'm good at preaching, but I'm not good at courts," Hunichen said. "I don't know if I would be good speaking, not being nervous and that's my worry. That's my fear."

Hunichen told WRAL that he would like to tell his side of the story, but was advised not to. He says, right now, all he is thinking about is Zachary.

The jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday morning. After that, they will get their instructions from the judge and begin deliberations.