Woman cleared of sex abuse charges Foster son, 15, made allegations

January 07, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

A Carroll Circuit Court jury acquitted yesterday a 31-year-old Westminster woman accused of sexually abusing her 15-year-old foster son.

The jury deliberated four hours at the end of the 2 1/2 -day trial.

The verdict did not surprise prosecutors, who said they lost the case in an evidence suppression hearing in October when the woman's diary and her confession to police were barred from the trial.

"That blew a hole in the battleship," said Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III. "Losing the suppression hearing sunk the whole ship."

Several jurors who talked to Mr. Walker after the verdict said the case came down to believing the woman over her accuser. They said they were looking for more evidence that would convince them beyond any doubt that the accusations were true.

One juror asked if there was more evidence. Mr. Walker told her of the woman's confession to police and the diary, which TC narrated encounters between the defendant and her former foster son. The foster mother had said that the entries described only "dreams and fantasies,"

After reading the diary, the juror walked into a hallway and, standing by herself, wept for several minutes.

"They told me that they believed something transpired between the parties, but they felt they couldn't convict her with the evidence in the courtroom," Mr. Walker said of the jurors. "But I accept the verdict. These kinds of cases are difficult, and, without evidence, even harder."

The defendant, whose name is being withheld to protect her accuser's privacy, was elated by yesterday's verdict.

"I knew during the trial I couldn't display any emotion, but I had to let the jury figure out that [my former foster son] was lying," she said, holding back tears that began erupting immediately after the verdict was read. "Now I just want to get back to normal."

The 2 1/2 -day trial brought out details of the foster child's long history of making accusations of physical and sexual abuse against his mother, stepfather and previous foster families.

None of those accusations resulted in any criminal charges against the adults.

The boy, now 16, also was characterized by defense attorney J. Barry Hughes as a manipulative liar.

"Often during this trial I felt that I was in the middle of one of those terrible teen-age movies," Mr. Hughes told the jury during his closing argument, "one of those movies where the teen-age know-it-all wins out over the duped adults."

Without the use of the woman's diary or her confession last February to Westminster Police Lt. Dean Brewer, Mr. Walker attempted to portray the defendant's family as liars who would do anything to protect her and tried to discredit the testimony of the boy's previous foster parents.

"Every single person who had contact with him had contact that ended on a sour note," he told the jury. "There was not one person in this courtroom without a motive to their testimony."

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. ruled in October that Lieutenant Brewer had improperly obtained the woman's confession.

At issue during the suppression hearing was a contention by Mr. Hughes that the woman didn't want to answer the lieutenant's questions.

Before and after being advised of her constitutional right to remain silent, the woman told Lieutenant Brewer she didn't want to talk to him.

In the first part of the interview Feb. 21., the woman denied any sexual contact with her foster son. But after a break, the woman confessed to two episodes of sexual abuse.

"In its most simple terms, the issue is when does 'No' mean 'No?' " Judge Beck wrote in his October opinion.

He barred the woman's diary as trial evidence because it came to light during the taped confession. Since he ruled that the confession was involuntary, any evidence seized because of it is not admissible in court.

The confession and diary led to the woman's arrest in March on eight abuse charges, including one charge of sexual child abuse, one count of perverted and unnatural sexual practice and six counts of fourth-degree sex offense.

Yesterday, Mr. Hughes said the acquittals on those charges "were the only thing the jury could have done with the evidence in this case."

The woman's mother and father broke into tears when the jury foreman rattled off a row of "not guilty" findings.

"This system does work," the woman's mother said. "I want to say I really respect all those foster parents out there."

The boy lived with the woman from May 1991 until last February, when he was removed from the home after making the allegations.

He has lived in another foster home since then.

The defendant said she would not accept her foster care license from the state Department of Social Services if they gave it back.

"They can have it," she said.

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