Smith's lawyer challenges accuser's credibility Woman holds fast to account of rape

December 06, 1991|By Timothy Clifford | Timothy Clifford,Newsday

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The lead lawyer for William Kennedy Smith searched point by point through the testimony of his client's accuser yesterday for confusion, contradictions and missing memories, seeking to persuade the jurors that there are too many reasonable doubts for a rape conviction.

Throughout 4 1/2 hours of cross-examination, the 30-year-old woman battled back and did not waver on the central question: whether Mr. Smith raped her last spring at the Kennedy family's Palm Beach estate.

Shaking her left index finger at Mr. Smith, who was looking across the courtroom at her, she said, "What he did to me was wrong. I don't want to live the rest of my life in fear of that man. I don't want to be responsible for him doing it to someone else."

The remark, which came in response to a prosecutor's question, drew an objection from the defense, and Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary E. Lupo ordered jurors to disregard it.

More than 160 times on the fourth day of the trial, the woman replied to defense attorney Roy E. Black's questions with "I don't remember," "I don't know," "I'm not sure" or "I don't recall."

The lawyer confronted her 40 times with her own voice and words from her five tape-recorded statements to authorities to illustrate what he called inconsistencies in her account.

At times, the woman defended her inability to recall details by reminding the court that the incident traumatized her, which caused Mr. Black to demand that she simply answer his questions.

She sometimes insisted on explaining herself fully to the jurors, apparently trying to defuse any apparent contradictions. The woman also missed few chances to talk about her 2-year-old daughter, whose premature birth caused numerous medical and developmental problems for the child.

The woman cried when she was questioned about the alleged rape during the early morning hours of March 30.

At one point, when Mr. Black asked whether Mr. Smith was able to maintain an erection during the alleged attack, the woman broke down and said, "Why do you have to ask me questions like that?"

But when the lawyer suggested a break, the woman said: "No, I will get through this. This has been a nightmare for me. I want this over."

Still, over the repeated objections of the sobbing witness, Judge Lupo twice declared short recesses.

"There's just a certain amount of emotional display we're allowed to have," the judge said.

All through the cross-examination, the woman never wavered on the main points of her version of events. She spent most of the day on the stand before being excused.

Mr. Smith, 30, continued to look directly at his accuser, occasionally glancing down to write notes.

The woman rarely looked at Mr. Smith, but often glanced at her relatives and friends in the front row.

Next to them on the same bench sat Mr. Smith's relatives, including his sister, Kym Smith; cousins Robin Lawford and Victoria Lawford Pender; and one of his aunts, Patricia Kennedy Lawford.

Mr. Black laboriously led the woman through her account of the incident, comparing her current testimony on many points with her past sworn statements to authorities or depositions to try to show the jury that she was changing her story.

He challenged details of the woman's account, questioning whether they were probable or even possible. In one example, the attorney asked how Mr. Smith could have been swimming in the ocean as she was walking back from the beach and still caught her from behind on the stairs up to the compound.

"I don't know how he did it. He just, he did it!" she exclaimed.

She had testified that Mr. Smith tackled her, held her down with the weight of his chest and held her arms down with his hand.

"All I know is he pinned me down, he pushed my panties aside and he raped me," she said.

As she answered many questions through tears, saying over and over, "He raped me," Mr. Black interrupted her, saying, "I know you want to give that speech every time."

"It's not a speech!" she shouted.

The woman testified she could not remember whether Mr. Smith was wearing any clothes at the time. At another point, Mr. Black questioned why the woman, who has repeatedly told the jury she felt "dirty" after the alleged attack, did not change her underwear for 10 hours.

After Mr. Black completed his initial cross-examination, prosecutor Moira K. Lasch spent two hours trying to blunt any damage the defense may have inflicted on the woman's credibility.

The woman had testified that she could not remember when and where she took off her black pantyhose. Ms. Lasch showed the woman and jury the shredded pantyhose, which were found in her car. The woman, emitting a high-pitch gasp when she saw the pantyhose, then stared at Mr. Smith.

Mr. Black had implied that the woman encouraged sex by removing her pantyhose in front of Mr. Smith.

At the end of her nearly 10 hours on the stand over two days, Mr. Black and the woman both exploded in an angry exchange over statements to the press, with the woman hissing out the last words, "Your client raped me."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Mr. Smith's uncle, who arrived in Palm Beach yesterday, is expected to take the stand in the next two days.

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