'Insatiable' defense begins to form as case against Tyson winds down

February 04, 1992|By John Kass | John Kass,Chicago Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the prosecution's rape case against Mike Tyson began to wind down yesterday, the boxer's defense emerged during brisk cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

In questioning former contestants in last July's Miss Black America pageant, Tyson co-counsel John Heard suggested a portrait of Tyson as sexually insatiable, that he openly pawed at women, making lewd suggestions, and that all the contestants should have known he was advertising for sex.

Tyson, 25, the former world heavyweight champion, is on trial for allegedly raping an 18-year-old pageant contestant in his Canterbury Hotel room on July 19.

He claims the Rhode Island teen-ager consented to have sex with him.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case against Tyson as early as today and have the teen-ager's mother tell the jury that the only way her daughter could sleep after the attack was in her parent's bed.

The image suggested to the jury yesterday by Tyson's lawyers may work: That Tyson has a strong sex drive -- in addition to an inference by his lawyers last week that vaginal injuries the alleged victim received were due to the fighter's size.

That theme is consistent with his claim that the teen-ager knew what to expect when she accepted a date with him at 1:30 a.m. and accompanied him to his hotel.

But it also may backfire, possibly leaving the impression with the jury of Tyson as a predator with little respect for women.

In the courtroom yesterday, prosecutors Greg Garrison and Barbara Thrathen put Stacy Murphy on the witness stand to back up the victim's claims about the rape.

Murphy, 20, a senior bio-chemistry major at Chicago State University, was a contestant at the Miss Black America pageant and made friends with the alleged victim.

Murphy told the jury that the Rhode Island teen-ager had a vivacious personality but that she withdrew into a shell after the alleged rape.

For days they would joke with each other that they couldn't dance, that they were "Sisters of the Rhythmless Nation," she said.

Murphy said that, at a rehearsal on July 20, the young woman told her Tyson had raped her.

"When she looked at me -- people say a look says so much -- her look said it all," Murphy testified. "Her soul was gone . . . Like a Zombie. Like someone took her away."

Murphy also backed up the prosecution in recalling that conversation.

She said the alleged victim told her that when Tyson made a pass at her in his hotel room, she rushed to the bathroom. When she came out, in the hopes they would go to a party, the young woman told her she was raped by Tyson.

Under rapid-fire questioning by Heard -- in sharp contrast to other Tyson lawyers -- Murphy testified that many contestants were pawed by Tyson during a rehearsal before the date.

Tyson "was like an octopus," Murphy said, "feeling up other girls' behinds and feeling other girls' breasts and brushing up against other girls. So he was pretty busy."

Heard had Murphy tell the jury that Tyson was also flirting with the alleged victim. Murphy said she herself stayed away.

"He looked at me and I looked at him and I stayed where I was," she said. "I could see what he was doing."

After yesterday's proceedings, prosecutor Greg Garrison noted that Tyson's defense team had earlier tried to keep other alleged acts of the boxer's misconduct toward women out of the testimony.

On Saturday, for example, Heard fought successfully against the jury's hearing testimony from Virginia Foster, a limousine driver who would have alleged that Tyson exposed himself and tried to kiss her in his hotel room.

But because Tyson's defense had brought yesterday's stories before the jury, Garrison said that he may change his strategy.

"It opens up a lot of doors," Garrison said.

The Tyson defense expanded its claim during other testimony Monday, when Charisse Nelson, 19, a former contestant from Maryland, took the stand.

Nelson told prosecutors that the alleged victim, as she waited in the Omni Hotel lobby before going to Methodist Hospital on July 20, said she'd been raped by Tyson.

"I said, for starters, 'Take him to jail,' " Nelson said, as she shot a stern look at Tyson and then at the jury.

Under cross-examination, Nelson said she was repulsed by the boxer's behavior toward the women and especially by his fondling of former Miss Black America Rosie Jones, who has filed a $100 million sexual harassment suit against Tyson.

Nelson told the jury that the alleged victim told her, "He raped her. And he said I like those girls who say no."

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