A Circuit Court jury yesterday convicted a second man in the rape a 16-year-old blind girl. The jury deliberated for 4 hours over two days before returning its verdict against Philip Michael Saunders, 19, of Baltimore.
Last week, a different jury convicted Saunders' co-defendant, Byron Charles Morrow, 25, also of Baltimore, of raping the girl in a car in the Harundale Mall parking lot. Testimony showed that Saunders became acquainted with the girl through a telephone "party line." The rapes occurred after Morrow drove Saunders to Glen Burnie to accept the girl's invitation for a first-time, face-to-face meeting last March 17, St. Patrick's Day.
In both trials, the girl testified she got into Morrow's car in front of her house because it had begun to rain, and Saunders reclined the seat and fondled her breasts. She said the men, ignoring her complaints that she was not allowed to leave without her mother's permission, drove to the nearby mall parking lot, where Saunders raped her in the front seat of the car.
She said she then complied with Saunders' order to get into the back seat, where Morrow raped her before Saunders raped her again. She said she felt powerless to resist because her blindness made fleeing impossible.
She said the men drove her home. After initially attempting to cover up the incident, she reported the rape two days later to a school guidance counselor and to her mother three days later, she said.
The girl testified she can see only large forms, and then only in bright lighting. She said an aide assists her with school work, which she completes in Braille.
During their trials, both men said they realized the girl had some sort of problem with her eyes, but did not know she was blind. Both men insisted the girl had been a willing participant in the sexual encounter in Morrow's car.
Morrow's defense attorney, James D. Barton, aggressively painted the girl as a liar and an affection-starved teen-ager who was, at least for a day, a nymphomaniac. Saunders' lawyer, Gary Christopher, also based his defense on the girl's consent to the sex acts, saying the girl was "troubled."
A jury of nine men and three women convicted Saunders despite having no way of knowing he contradicted his co-defendant on at least one point. While Morrow said Saunders climbed into the back seat to have sex with the girl a second time, Saunders testified Wednesday he had sex with her only once.
Saunders was also convicted of false imprisonment, but was acquitted of kidnapping. Morrow also was acquitted on a kidnapping charge.
Both men are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19. They face a maximum sentence of life in prison for first-degree rape.
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990