Harrison County’s own First Assistant District Attorney, Madison Hood, has the distinct honor of being selected as a guest speaker for the esteemed 2020 Crimes Against Children Conference, which draws thousands of child advocates, law enforcement officials and prosecutors from around the world — annually.
“I am honored and blessed to be a part of this conference,” said Hood.
She was chosen among a host of other nominees and contacted by the conference coordinator to accept the task.
“I have to give thanks to God, my Savior, because without him none of this would be possible,” Hood said of the honor.
“I’m glad I can glorify him and shine light on one of the most important issues in our society today — child abuse,” she said.
The annual conference is hosted by the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person event will now be held virtually, from August 10-13.
“Internationally recognized, the Crimes Against Children Conference is the premier conference of its kind, providing practical and interactive instruction to those fighting crimes against children and helping children heal,” the Dallas CAC stated.
More than 5,000 professionals from around the globe attended in 2019.
“The conference is conducted to provide training to those employed by government or nonprofit agencies in the fields of law enforcement, Child Protective Services, social work, children’s advocacy, therapy, and medicine who work directly with child victims of crime,” organizers indicated.
Forensic interviewers, counselors, and SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) nurses also participate.
Hood is humbled to have been chosen on the panel of guest speakers. She described the event as the equivalent of the World Series for child advocates. Harrison County District Attorney, Reid McCain, who nominated her, shared in her excitement.
“The speakers who present are world class speakers,” said McCain. “It is a real honor to have her present from our county!
“She will be presenting to the best of the best in the field from all over our country as well as the world,” the DA said. “Those professionals will be listening to her and hopefully implementing, into their own careers, her advice and strategies.
“We are truly fortunate to have her present,” said McCain, sharing how proud he is of the great talent Harrison County has. “We’re lucky to have her.”
LOCAL CASE STUDY
Hood’s topic will be: “Overcoming Obstacles to Obtain Justice for a Victim of Child Sexual Abuse”. In her lecture, she will present case studies on the complex case of a then 6-year-old Harrison County girl, who suffered abuse by multiple defendants. Through it all, prosecutors were able to give the victim justice, and get the defendants the appropriate punishment they deserved.
“The two cases that she is presenting case studies on are the ones involving defendants, James Joseph Craver and Christopher McCartney,” said McCain. “They were two that we tried right after I took office and both were charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.”
McCartney was convicted by a jury in March 2019 and sentenced to 375 years for the aggravated sexual assault of his own stepchild. McCartney’s best friend, Craver, was convicted a couple of months later and sentenced to 297 years for abusing the same child. He was sentenced to 297 years.
The girl’s mother, Amanda McCartney, was also charged in connection with the case and sentenced in September 2019 to six months in state jail for endangering a child.
“That case obviously was very special to me on more than one level, just because the little girl was amazing and everything she had to go through and how she still came out fighting,” Hood told the News Messenger.
The prosecutor still gets choked up, to this day, reflecting on it.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about because I get emotional talking about her,” Hood shared as her eyes welled with tears.
The prosecutor decided to focus her topic on that case because of its rare nature.
“Most of the time, the victims have not been victimized by more than one person and then it’s very rare for them to have to come to a courtroom and testify and have to go through that more than once,” Hood explained.
Also, “there were a lot of issues that came up in this trial that were very interesting,” she added. “We had a lot of obstacles.”
The main obstacle was all of the state’s witnesses were either out of state or out of town besides the sheriff’s department.
“Most of the investigation was actually done in Texarkana because that’s where she was taken, and so she also lived states away,” said Hood. “So there were a lot of obstacles when I got here besides the case being so old.”
“McCartney had actually been in jail almost three years, and it was almost three years since the original outcry,” she added. “So that was a huge hindrance (too).”
Through those case studies, Hood wants to encourage all to not give up on seeking and attaining justice — despite obstacles they may face.
“My presentation’s not just geared at prosecutors, but everyone in the field,” said Hood.
ON A MISSION
Such cases can be overwhelming, at times, but Hood never loses sight of her goal. In fact, she likes to keep her mission, displayed on a canvass in her office that eloquently states: “Remember why you started.”
“I knew in law school that I wanted to be a prosecutor. I did not, at that point in time, realize I wanted to prosecute specifically these types of offenses, but an opportunity came up in Gregg County and I took that position over in 2014, and just fell in love with it, and realized my passion through that opportunity,” she said, reflecting how her passion in fighting for child victims began.
Hood, a 2005 Marshall High School graduate, has been a prosecutor since 2012. Starting out in Gregg County, she then relocated to Harrison County in 2019, under then newly-elected DA, McCain.
As ADA, Hood’s caseload is primarily crimes against children. Additionally, she handles sexual assaults and other felony matters.
Hood’s passion for fighting for children goes beyond the courtroom. Outside of her role as prosecutor, she serves as vice chair of the Martin House Children’s Advocacy Center board and as vice chair of the Harrison County Child Welfare Board.
What’s been most rewarding to the Marshall native, wife and mother of three is getting justice for the victims and getting the defendants the punishment they deserve, she said.
ROLE OF CAC
Regarding Children’s Advocacy Centers, Reid expressed how pleased he is for Harrison County to be a part of such an important agency that provides such crucial services to child victims.
“CACs conduct forensic interviews on children who are, often times, victims of sexual abuse,” he said. “The interviews are not limited to sexual abuse but a large caseload is the abuse. Sometimes kids are witnesses to assaults or other crimes. “
Locally, Martin House CAC covers Harrison, Marion and Gregg Counties. McCain said the role CACs play when it comes to seeking justice for child victims is vital.
“The purpose of the forensic interviews is to have them conducted in a controlled manner by a trained interviewer and record them to try and prevent the child from having to recount their story over and over,” he said.
“It’s a pretty warm atmosphere whereas police stations are kind of cold,” said McCain.
The inviting atmosphere, along with the trained forensic interviewer, makes child victims feel more comfortable in detailing their outcry, he shared. As a result, prosecutors along with law enforcement are able to get the evidence they need to seek justice.