Claremore Daily Progress

Crime/Courts

June 21, 2014

Verdigris Lower Elementary teacher found not guilty of physical abuse of students

CLAREMORE —

Judge Terrell Crosson’s courtroom was filled to capacity Friday as the jury found Verdigris Elementary School teacher April Beth Cohenour not guilty. 
The 22-year teaching veteran, Cohenour, was cleared of eight charges of assault and battery on a student.
Initially she was charged in November 2013 of nine counts. The trial revealed at least one student falsified claims against Cohenour.
The misdemeanor charges carried a potential penalty of one year in the county jail and/or a fine of $2,000.
The third grade students alleged the art teacher committed offenses against them including: grabbing them by the neck pushing them into furniture or bars. One student claimed the teacher punched him in the arm, while another said Cohenour scratched her.
Discrepancies in the stories were presented during the trial, along with the state’s evidence, including a photograph of one child’s alleged injuries.
The misdemeanor charges carried a potential penalty of one year in the county jail and/or a fine of $2,000.
“All the evidence that is proper that has been presented in the case,” Crosson said as he read the jurors instructions Friday morning.
First Assistant District Attorney Larry Edwards made his closing remarks urging the jurors to believe the testimony of the children, “who has a motive to lie, who has no motive to lie.”
“The only people that know what happened are the people in that room [Mrs. Cohenour and the students], ” Edwards said. “It comes down to what you believe.”
There is enough evidence with the children’s testimony to find her guilty, Edwards said.
Cohenour’s attorney Joe White offered the jury a different perspective.
“The burden of proof means beyond a reasonable doubt,” White said. “…Cohenour is entitled for this wrong to be righted. Justice is the guardian of liberty.” 
Story after story was recounted for the jury, each time White provided examples of issues with each child’s testimony.
“It is not just a student that cried in the courtroom, a teacher cried,” White said. “Enough is enough.” it is a special calling for teachers to do their work he explained.
The jury took approximately one hour to reach their decision.

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