Lurid testimony draws crowds to trial

September 25, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Testimony about handcuffs, hot wax, a leather riding crop, bondage belts, and talk of sex on a 10-foot wooden cross drew large crowds to the murder trial of Michael Cutlip in Towson yesterday.

But the intense interest had nothing to do with Mr. Cutlip himself, who sat quietly beside his lawyers. It came from the defense attorneys' strategy: attacking the victim, Joie Lynne Wisdom, a 19-year-old exotic dancer found strangled to death in her Essex apartment Dec. 3, 1990.

The lurid descriptions of her alleged sexual habits became such an attraction that Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel imposed a special rule yesterday: No spectators were allowed to leave once a witness began testifying.

The judge issued his order -- and posted sheriff's deputies at the doors to enforce it -- after jurors complained that they were distracted by the constant stream of spectators.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Mr. Cutlip, who is charged with sexually assaulting, robbing and murdering Miss Wisdom. The defense maintains she died accidentally while having rough sex with Mr. Cutlip. His lawyers say they can prove that she liked sadomasochistic sex and enjoyed being beaten.

After the prosecution closed its case yesterday, the defense began with a series of witnesses, some of whom were compelled under oath to describe intimate details of Miss Wisdom's sex life.

An ex-boyfriend, Gregory Giannetti, 23, of Sykesville, said he dated Miss Wisdom for a few months prior to her death. When asked to describe any "unusual" sexual habits she had, he said: "She had a whip. . . . She had handcuffs on the wall, but we never used them."

Under cross examination by John Cox, an assistant state's attorney, Mr. Giannetti was asked: "Isn't it true that the whip was used in a playful manner and not in a painful manner?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Giannetti.

Nathan C. Bradley, 21, a singer in a local rock band, testified that he had sex with Miss Wisdom just weeks before her death. He said she talked about having sexual intercourse on the 10-foot wooden cross his band used as a prop. But he added, "It came across as not being completely serious, more like a joke."

Scott T. Noyle, a local musician, said he dated Miss Wisdom several months before she died.

"While I was handcuffed, she would pour a little hot wax on me," he said. "But it never hurt."

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