CHARLOTTE, TN (WSMV) - The trial of Joseph Daniels began on Thursday afternoon with opening statements from the prosecution and defense at the Dickson County courthouse.
Joseph Daniels is charged for killing his 5-year-old son, Joe Clyde Daniels, back in 2018.
The state gave their opening statement first and painted a picture of Joe Clyde, a child with autism. They say he was an innocent kid who loved cowboy boots, school, and apples. They say Joseph Daniels is smart, he’s college educated and was a computer engineer and technician. They mention Krystal Daniels was cheating on Joseph and the two got in a fight the night before Joe Clyde went missing. He also didn’t believe Joe Clyde was his biological son.
The murder trial of Joseph Daniels begins on Thursday in Dickson County.
“You’re going to hear that the defendant called his son “that boy”,” says district attorney Ray Crouch.
The defense focused on the investigation in their opening statements saying it was biased. Defense attorney, Jake Lockert, says TBI agents nagged Joseph Daniels to confess to killing his son.
“He just gradually adopts what he’s telling him in his statement,” argues Lockert.
Lockert also made the point police didn’t investigate certain places until two years after Joe Clyde went missing, another argument the investigation is biased.
“This prosecution is obscure,” Lockert comments.
The first witness the prosecution brought to the stand was Jessica Donnerstag. She was Joe Clyde’s teacher who helped him with his speech.
“He was great with students to work with, he was very funny, he liked to play, and he loved to joke around,” says Donnerstag.
She says he had a lot of potential. He didn’t like loud noises and got distracted easily. She says he had some speech issues and talked using only vowels. When saying the number “five” he left out the “F” and “V”.
During the trial, the state showed three videos of Joe Clyde being taught by Donnerstag to show the jury who the victim is. During that time, family, Donnerstag, even Joseph Daniels, got emotional inside the courtroom seeing Joe Clyde on the screen.
The state made the argument in their opening statement that Joseph Daniels told first responders Joe Clyde escaped by unlocking the front door with a lock and key the night he went missing. But one piece of evidence shows Joe Clyde didn’t know how to use a lock and key. The prosecution submitted a toy lock and key as an exhibit. Donnerstag says she used it to help Joe Clyde with his motor skills. She says he had difficultly putting together locks and keys.
The state also brought forward Joe Clyde’s bus driver, a 911 dispatcher who took Joseph Daniel’s call to report Joe Clyde went missing, and Deputy Derek Smith of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Department.
"The confession is obviously going to be the most important part of your case,” Criminal Defense Attorney Jim Todd explained. He said while the confession will be the state’s key piece of evidence, it could force the defense to put Daniels on the stand, if it doesn’t contain his recantation. "The jury won’t hear it unless he takes the stand and tells them, and that puts the defense in a very complicated position."
Todd also predicts Daniels’ wife, Krystal Daniels, could testify against him.
Daniels is charged with five counts: first degree murder, first degree murder in perpetration of a felony, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report, and tampering with evidence.
The trial will resume Friday at 8:30AM.