A Greene County man who received one of the longest prison sentences in Virginia history earlier this year is appealing his conviction on child pornography-related charges.
Christopher Mark Garrison, 49, of Stanardsville was indicted in Greene County on 43 counts related to possession, distribution and manufacturing child pornography, as well as soliciting minors online. A Greene County jury found Garrison guilty on all charges on July 25, 2018 and recommended a 291-year sentence, which Circuit Judge Dale Durrer upheld during sentencing in January.
Garrison’s attorney, John Maus, argued for a 60-year sentence at the time, running the solicitation charges concurrently with the possession and distribution charges.
In his appeal, Maus alleges that the trial court erred by not calling Garrison’s niece to testify, whose testimony would have been that she found her cousin using a computer to watch child pornography. The appeal also says that the trial court erred by admitting screenshots, web history, internet tabs and top sites that showed more than what Garrison was charged with. In addition, the appeal states that Garrison was not allowed to inform the jury about mandatory minimum punishments, replay a video during trial or introduce surrebuttal evidence. Surrebuttal evidence would be evidence in response to the prosecutor’s new evidence shown in court even though Garrison wasn’t charged with those offenses.
“The trial court abused its discretion by failing to balance any probative value against the prejudice to the defendant. Allowing the jury to see evidence of substantial misconduct with which the defendant was not charged was highly prejudicial,” court documents state.
The appeal goes on to question the identity of the person who viewed pornography on Garrison’s computer, stating that Garrison’s niece’s testimony would have corroborated that.
“During the videotaped interview of Garrison by Deputy [Jason] Tooley that was conducted at the Greene County Sheriff’s Office on the evening of his arrest, Garrison said that his father or his nephew has access to his computer, raising the possibility that someone else may have downloaded the pornography or created the videos,” court documents allege.
Court documents go on to state that Garrison’s niece lived approximately two miles from Garrison with her cousin. Garrison’s niece would testify that “on one occasion, she came downstairs in the morning and found [her cousin] asleep on the sofa with pornography still visible on the screen of his computer” and asked him to leave the house.
Garrison’s niece was not allowed to testify after the trial court ruled that she lived “some distance” from Garrison and the laptop her cousin used was “not the subject of forensic analysis.”
As of press time, Garrison’s appeal was still pending in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and no hearing date had been set.