William Smith's accuser cries on witness stand Woman in Palm Beach, Fla., rape case undergoes defense grilling.

December 06, 1991|By Boston Globe

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- William Kennedy Smith's lawyers spent five hours trying to pick apart the testimony of the woman accusing him of rape, challenging her account of the attack and repeatedly prompting her to break down in tears on the stand.

Defense attorneys pressed the woman on her spotty memory of the Easter weekend evening she says she was attacked. How, they wondered, could she recall ordering a Caesar salad and Cliquot champagne but not remember whether she met with N NTC bartender friend or where she took off her shoes and panty hose?

The defense did not appear to score any major victories yesterday during the fourth day of the trial, but it did highlight a series of potential vulnerabilities in the 30-year-old woman's testimony. At issue was whether she revised her testimony after reading about how it would be challenged by defense experts, which she denies.

The testimony "just happens to change after you know about the opinion of the defense expert?" asked Roy Black, Smith's lead lawyer, in an incredulous tone.

The woman, however, said she had lapses in recall because "it was very painful for me to remember these things, sequentially and chronologically. I was still in shock . . . I'd been up for 36 hours, I'd been raped, I'd been made to go through a rape exam. I was scared to death."

Legal experts generally agreed the alleged victim was an exceedingly effective witness when she took the stand Tuesday afternoon, but they are split over whether the defense regained lost ground during yesterday's cross-examination.

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