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Man guilty of exploiting his teen bride
Defenses strategy to show photos backfires
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A Hall County jury forced to view the most personal of photos of Jerry Dwayne Peck came away convinced of his guilt.

Peck, 49, was convicted Thursday night on charges of exploiting his 18-year-old wife in a series of sexually explicit photographs taken when she was 17.

A jury of seven men and five women deliberated just more than two hours before deciding that Peck was the man in the photographs.

Peck’s defense strategy of showing jurors other photos of him unclothed below the waist failed to sway the panel.

"It was difficult," juror Marty Mann said afterward of the trial, in which jurors repeatedly viewed explicit, closeup photographs. "Our big concern is for the young lady. We just hope this will give her the opportunity to get the help she needs."

Mann said there was "no doubt" in the minds of jurors that the male anatomy shown in photographs of Peck presented by the defense was the same as what was seen in the photos developed at a Gainesville Eckerd pharmacy in July 2006.

Peck grimaced and looked at his attorney in disappointment as the verdict was announced. He faces a sentencing range of five to 20 years in prison after being convicted of sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of sexually explicit materials. Judge David Burroughs deferred sentencing to a later date.

Peck’s wife acknowledged that she posed nude in one of the pictures and that the others showed her hand in a sexual interaction with a man when she was 17.

The age of consent in Georgia is 16, but it is illegal to produce sexually explicit photographs of anyone younger than 18. Eckerd workers notified police after the couple came by to pick up the photos.

The couple reportedly told a pharmacy worker to destroy the explicit photos.

The woman, who is not being named by The Times because she is the victim of a sex crime, married Peck in September when she was 18 and he was 48.

"This is a case about a girl who is now a woman but in many ways is still a child," Hall County Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance told the jury in her closing argument.

Jurors heard testimony about the woman’s troubled background, from drug use and problems in school to a fractured home life. The woman was a nervous and reluctant witness a day earlier when she was called to testify against her husband, denying he was in the pictures.

After she repeatedly refused to say who was in the pictures, Burroughs found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to 10 days in jail.

Senior Public Defender Anne Watson told the jury in her closing argument that her client wanted to prove he was not the man in the pictures, as the state alleged in its indictment.

"Are we supposed to come to court and pull his pants down?" she said.

Watson said arrangements were made by the court for Peck to be photographed nude below the waist by a neutral party.

"We pulled down his pants," Watson said. "He exposed himself for you to look at. He had to do it to show you it’s not his."

Watson again pointed out for the jury what she said were distinguishing physical characteristics of her client that differed from the photos in question.

"Pictures speak a thousand words," Watson said.

Vance, the prosecutor, pointed out what she felt were similarities in the two sets of photos.

"Ms. Watson feels like these pictures clearly show the differences," Vance said. "The state feels like they’re shockingly similar."

Vance brought up the testimony of an police investigator who quoted Peck as saying, "we were just playing around," when he was confronted with the pictures.

"This isn’t ‘Girls Gone Wild,’" Vance told the jury. "This is a man who takes her under his wing and certainly doesn’t do her any favors. This is what happens when children are exploited."

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