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Mutilation case in jurors' hands

LAWRENCEVILLE - The verdict in the trial of a Loganville man accused of mutilating his daughter's genitalia could come today, as both attorneys gave their closing arguments on Tuesday.

Khalid Adem, a native of Ethiopia who is accused of using a pair of scissors to remove his 2-year-old daughter's clitoris in 2001, is being tried on charges of aggravated battery and cruelty to children.

If convicted, Adem could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a practice used in some African cultures to limit sexuality and promote virginity in females.

The victim's mother, Fortunate Adem, alleges that Adem is responsible for the circumcision, while Adem blames Fortunate Adem and/or someone associated with her.

Before defense attorney W. Mark Hill gave his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Marty First began by explaining to the jury that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

First also explained that aggravated battery is when someone "maliciously (causes) bodily harm to another by depriving them of a member of (their) body," and cruelty to children is when someone "maliciously (causes) cruel and excessive mental and physical pain to a child under the age of 18."

And even if Adem was only present during the circumcision and someone else performed the procedure, he could still be convicted of the same two charges, First said.

He explained that someone is party to a crime when he or she either commits the crime directly or intentionally helps in the commission of a crime.

"We know two people did this to (the victim)," First said. "It doesn't matter who held the scissors."

The testimony of the victim, who said under oath that her father cut her, should be all the jury needs to convict Adem, First said.

"All you have to do is believe (the victim) to convict this defendant," First said.

According to the indictment, Adem allegedly committed the crime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31 of 2001.

First said it doesn't matter when the alleged crime occurred, only that it did occur in Gwinnett County and that the defendant was involved.

"The date alleged in the document is not a material allegation," First said to the jury. "You don't have to decide when it occurred."

Hill told the jury that the state has failed to prove the guilt of Adem beyond a reasonable doubt.

"There's not just a little bit of reasonable doubt or a little bit of inconsistency, there's a ton of reasonable doubt and a ton of inconsistency," Hill told the jury.

Hill said details in the victim's court testimony are inconsistent with details in a video-taped interview with a therapist in 2003.

For example, the victim said in the video that her father cut her in the kitchen and that there was a man present.

In her court testimony, she said it was in the bedroom and she couldn't remember if a man or a woman was with her father.

Hill told the jury that it would have been impossible for Fortunate Adem not to notice her that daughter had been circumcised, as there are symptoms involved that cannot go unnoticed, such as the inability to walk, pain and bleeding.

According to testimony from another defense witness, it can take days and sometimes longer for these symptoms to go away.

Judge Richard Winegarden reminded the jury that anything brought to the table during closing arguments cannot be considered as evidence.

Deliberations begin today.