Blind 'Party Line' User Testifies She's Victim Of Rape

September 12, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

The 16-year-old girl, who is blind, held the prosecutor's arm and was ushered to the witness stand. She said she "met" the man accused of raping her through a telephone "party line" and invited him to her Glen Burnie home on the afternoon of St. Patrick's Day 1990.

Sniffling and frequently hesitating, she went on to say Philip Michael Saunders and his friend, Bryon Charles Morrow, drove her to the parking lot of the Harundale Mall. Both raped her there in Morrow's Chevrolet Monte Carlo, she said.

But Morrow, who is on trial for first-degree rape and kidnapping, recalled a different version of events when he took the stand yesterday. Saunders, 19, of Baltimore, is scheduled to stand trial on identical charges next week.

Morrow, who is known by the nickname "Bear," said the girl was a willing sexual partner.

The 25-year-old Baltimore man said he was surprised when she pulled down her pants and had sex with his friend in the front passenger's seat of the car. And when he was ready to go into the mall and give them some privacy, Morrow testified, "She put her hand on my stomach, said 'You're next,' and went down my pants." Morrow said he and the girl then had sex in the back seat of his car.

The trial, before county Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr., is likely to end today when a jury of 12 women will be asked to decide whose story to believe. Defense attorney James D. Barton would not say yesterday whether he would call any more witnesses today before the start of closing arguments.

Barton came out of the gate yesterday with an aggressive attack on the alleged victim, questioning the quality of her eyesight and outlining the defense version of events. During his opening statement, Barton said, "Is that rape? Sounds like consentual group sex to me."

The girl, who spent nearly 90 minutes on the stand, testified she could see only large forms, and then only in bright lights. She said a "vision aide" assists her with her school work.

The girl said Saunders pulled her sweater up while she was sitting in Morrow's car in front of her house, and the men then drove her to the Harundale Mall against her will. She said Saunders raped her in the front seat, Morrow raped her in the back seat and then Sanders raped her again.

She said she was afraid to tell her mother what had happened for three days after the incident. A school guidance counselor eventually persuaded her to tell her mother, and the two men were arrested and charged with the crime.

Detective Keith Williams of the county police said Morrow, after his arrest, initially denied knowing the girl or being at her house, but later said he had sex with her. In insisting the girl was a willing partner, Morrow testified he initially denied knowing the girl because he thought he was facing a statutory rape charge.

Barton also attempted to establish that the girl was lying when she testified she never called Morrow at his home. Barton's first witness was Linda Morrow, the defendant's mother, who testified a person who identified herself as the victim called twice asking for "Bear." Bryon Morrow also testified the girl called Saunders' house twice the night after the incident and at least four times the following day.

Under cross examination by prosecutor Cynthia M. Ferris, Morrow admitted his record includes two theft convictions and convictions on disorderly conduct and burglary charges.

The trial has created some friction between Barton and assistant public defender Gary Christopher, who is representing Saunders. Barton complained that Christopher opposed the two men being tried together.

Morrow's mother said the two men would have corroborated each other's story. "I wanted them both to testify," she said.

As he left the courthouse, a visibly irritated Barton complained that Ferris had "choreographed" the 16-year-old girl's testimony.

Barton said: "Today she's Pollyanna. The other time she was Debbie Does Dallas, or Debbie Does Harundale."

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