The Latest: Jurors asked about media exposure in rape case

26 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Prep school grad accused of rape set to testify at trial.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The latest on the trial of a former student at an elite prep school accused of raping a freshman as part of a tradition called Senior Salute (all times local): A judge overseeing the trial of a recent graduate of a prestigious New Hampshire prep school charged with raping a freshman last year as part of a tradition known as Senior Salute has questioned each juror about the media coverage in the case. Nineteen-year-old Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, is charged with multiple felonies for his encounter with the 15-year-old girl two days before he graduated from St.

Prosecutors have argued that the so-called “Senior Salute,” in which male and female upperclassmen attempt to hook up with younger students before graduating, helped create conditions for the girl’s alleged rape on campus. Labrie, who was charged on nine counts, has maintained that a “divine intervention” stopped him from going all the way during his Senior Salute with the accuser.

He is expected to take the stand Wednesday to offer his side of the story in a case that has shaken this small community and shone a spotlight on campus culture at one of the country’s most prestigious boarding schools. The state rested its case Tuesday after two forensic investigators testified a sample taken from the girl’s underwear matched Labrie’s DNA profile but they were unable to conclude it was his sperm. But on the fifth day of the high-profile trial, the defense team’s stubborn insistence that Labrie didn’t have sex with the now 16-year-old girl appears to have weakened his case. During technical testimony Tuesday from a state forensics expert, jurors heard about a DNA test on underwear worn by the accuser on the night of the incident. Last week, Labrie’s accuser testified that she twice told him “no” during their encounter and that she felt “frozen” when he became aggressive.

Other students testified this week that Labrie was competing with friends to see how many girls they could “score” with before graduation and described a range of sexual encounters from kissing to intercourse that were part of Senior Salute. They said Labrie gave no indication that the sex wasn’t consensual, and all agreed that students frequently exaggerate their sexual escapades when discussing them with peers. Another expert, Kevin McMahon, said that he had earlier discovered a “strong indication” of semen in a panel of the underwear, and sent the evidence off to Swango for the DNA testing. Curtin said Labrie asked his mother to wait for him in the police department lobby and told detectives he would prefer they did not record the interview.

Reporting on Monday’s proceedings, the Boston Globe cited witness evidence from Andrew Thomson, Labrie’s former roommate at the elite prep school; Tucker Marchese, Malcolm Solovaara, and Henry Kremer, three other former students who were friends with Labrie; and a current St. Carney suggested police had treated his client unfairly, trying to catch him off-guard by driving to Vermont to interview him and speaking to him without his parents present. Investigators first met Labrie and his mother at a coffee shop, but after detectives said it would be better to talk at the police station, he agreed to be interviewed without his mother for nearly four hours. Prosecutors showed Facebook messages in May 2014 between Labrie and another friend, Tucker Marchese, who pressed for details about Labrie’s Senior Salute: “How’d it go from no to bone?” Labrie replied: “Just pulled every trick in the book.” But Solovaara had previously told investigators the opposite, and the judge reportedly told jurors that they could use this evidence to assess his credibility. Paul’s School, which boasts as alumni an international roster of senators, congressmen, ambassadors, Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel laureates and other notables, including U.S.

The court has so far heard testimony from 16 witnesses, including the accuser, her best friend, her mother, two nurses, a doctor, and the dean of students. Labrie was arrested and charged last summer with several counts of felony sex assault, misdemeanor sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and using a computer to solicit or lure a child under the age of 16. She also said she’d sought the morning after pill from the school nurse, and that when asked if their sex was consensual, she’d answered yes. (The nurse confirmed this in her own testimony.) “It was so much easier,” the accuser told the court, explaining that she was in a rush to save seats for her sister’s graduation when she went to the nurse’s office.

By the end of last week, the court had seen minimal evidence beyond the accuser’s testimony (as well as that of her mother and friend) that her encounter with Labrie was not consensual. Concord Police Detective Julie Curtin, who first interrogated Labrie, said authorities were able to access more than 100 messages he had deleted from his Facebook account, which might suggest he had something to hide. The school rector, Mike Hirschfeld, told students in a letter last summer that participating in games involving sexual solicitation would be grounds for expulsion, and has said in a statement that allegations about the culture at St. Paul’s “are are not emblematic of our School or our values, our rules, or the people who represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff.” On Monday, four friends of Labrie testified that Labrie had led them to believe he had in fact had intercourse with girl, and they said the encounter was part of the senior salute tradition.

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