Mixed verdict rendered in sex abuse trial

July 20, 1993|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury failed to reach a verdict yesterday on charges of carnal knowledge, incest and sodomy against a 59-year-old Grasonville man accused of sexually molesting three of his daughters in their Severna Park rancher 30 years ago.

The jury found the man guilty on three counts of battery, but 10 members voted guilty and two voted innocent to the remaining charges, said the jury foreman, who would not give his name.

The three daughters had no memory of their alleged abuse until they met with Annapolis therapist Patricia Hartge. The man went on trial in Circuit Court last week, charged with sexually abusing his daughters from 1963 to 1969.

During the trial, the man's attorneys attempted to cast doubt on Ms. Hartge's methods and conclusions.

During his closing arguments, Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler presented charts to the jury documenting the similarities of each sister's experiences and memories. He also compared the state's expert witness, Dr. Walter Byrd, who treated the youngest daughter for an eating disorder at the Washington, D.C., Minirth Meier Byrd Clinic, to the two defense experts who testified that there was no evidence of repressed memories.

"Dr. Byrd has been treating patients with repressed memories," Mr. Roessler told the jury. "He said that repressed memories were commonly responsible for eating disorders. The other two defense witnesses were just reading data from psychological experiments.

"They are engineers who examine the wing span, body mass and velocity of a bumblebee and then conclude that a bumblebee can't fly," he added. "Whereas Dr. Byrd is a beekeeper and says, 'I've kept bumblebees for many years and I've seen them fly.' "

Defense attorney George Lantzas again charged in his closing argument that Ms. Hartge could have suggested the abuse to the victims, planting or creating "false memories" of events that never happened.

Mr. Lantzas pointed out that two defense experts testified there was no scientific evidence of repressed memories when they reviewed the women's psychiatric records. He also remarked upon the youngest daughter's gynecologist, who described her as "virginal" during an examination at the age of 23.

"What hung us up was the fact that the family was pretty tight and had family reunions up until 1990," the foreman said. "Ms. Hartge was pivotal on the two not guilty votes. We felt her methods were inept."

Mr. Roessler has yet to decide on whether to retry the case or not.

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