In a move believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland, an 11-year-old Harford County girl diagnosed as having multiple personalities was allowed to testify yesterday that her father had sexually abused her.
The girl's father, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, is charged with child abuse, sodomy, unnatural and perverted sexual practices, and second- and third-degree sex offenses.
Clutching a teddy bear, the Joppatowne girl took the stand in Harford County Circuit Court and for two hours calmly recounted how her father had repeatedly fondled her and forced her to have oral and anal sex after he and her mother separated in April 1989.
Once her mother left home, she said, she started taking showers with her father and sleeping in his bedroom. Soon, she said, he started having sexual contact with her.
"How did that make you feel?" asked prosecutor Diana A. Brooks.
"Disgusting," the girl answered.
"He told me I shouldn't tell anybody," she added. "He said because people would start getting on our backs."
Throughout her testimony, the girl sat in the jury box so she could be farther away from her father. Ms Brooks sat beside her, holding the girl's hand. When she was asked to identify the man who abused her, the girl pointed to her father as he sat about 20 feet away at the defense table. She did not look at him.
During the last two years, the girl has taken at least three diagnostic evaluations, which concluded that she had between three and 16 personalities. The evaluations were conducted at the Woodburne Center and Sheppard Pratt Health System, both in Baltimore.
Judge Cypert O. Whitfill, who is hearing the case without a jury, had heard testimony last fall from experts on whether the girl was competent to testify.
He decided to let her take the stand yesterday after she sailed through a variety of questions he asked, including whether she understood the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie.
Under cross-examination by public defender John Henderson, the girl acknowledged that she had been taking medication for hyperactivity for four years. She said she took the medication before she started testifying and during a lunch recess.
She was asked if she remembered her stay at the Woodburne Center, where she was diagnosed as having multiple personalities, including several with different names.
"People said I was crazy . . . that I had people floating around in my head," the girl said.
Mr. Henderson asked if if she had ever gone by a name other than her own. The girl said she had not.
The testimony was reminiscent of a Wisconsin rape case that gained much attention in 1990 when a 27-year-old woman with multiple personalities was permitted to testify against her alleged attacker.
The man was convicted, but the verdict was overturned because defense lawyers were not allowed to have a psychiatrist examine the woman before trial. Prosecutors then dropped the charges, saying a retrial would be harmful to the woman.
Prosecutors involved in the Harford trial said they knew of no other case in Maryland in which a person with multiple personalities has testified.