Mis­trial in case al­leg­ing sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor

De­fen­dant re­jected par­tial ver­dict, new trial sched­uled

Maryland Independent - - News - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @An­drew_IndyNews

Af­ter about seven hours of de­lib­er­a­tion, a jury tri- al for a man ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing an un­der­aged girl un­der his care ended in a mis­trial dur­ing the early morn­ing hours Wed­nes­day.

The ju­rors still re­mained dead­locked at 12:30 a.m. when a mis­trial was de­clared af­ter the de­fen­dant, Don­ald McCoy Stan­cell, 38, of New Car- roll­ton opted to re­ject a par­tial ver­dict, ac­cord­ing to the state’s at­tor­neys of- fice. Charged with counts of sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor and third-de­gree sex of- fense, Stan­cell has been sched­uled to stand trial again in March.

With Ad­min­is­tra­tive Judge Amy Bra­gu­nier of the Charles County Cir- cuit Court pre­sid­ing, the trial be­gan on Mon­day as as­sis­tant state’s at­tor- neys Sarah Free­man and Katrine Bakhtiary pre­sented their case against Stan­cell, who is ac­cused of sex­u­ally abus­ing a mi- nor un­der his su­per­vi­sion for mul­ti­ple years un­til she re­ported the abuse to school of­fi­cials and po­lice in Novem­ber 2015.

The al­leged vic­tim, now 18, tes­ti­fied that the abuse be­gan when she was about 14 years old and es­ca­lated over time, ac- cord­ing to court pro­ceed­ings. She said she would have sex with Stan­cell in ex­change for var­i­ous gifts and priv­i­leges, and esti- mated that they have had sex more than 50 times and de­scribed sev­eral lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing dif- fer­ent rooms at a shared res­i­dence and Stan­cell’s ve­hi­cle. The girl also de­scribed what Stan­cell looked like naked, and ju­rors were given pic­tures to re­view.

On Nov. 6, 2015, the girl re­ported the abuse to school of­fi­cials, prompt­ing de­tec­tives from the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice to be­gin an inves- tiga­tion, ac­cord­ing to pro­ceed­ings. Though the al­leged vic­tim ini­tially re­ported that Stan­cell had beaten her and given her bruises on her legs, she then re­vealed that that was a lie and that Stan­cell had ac­tu­ally been sex­u­ally abus­ing her for years. She told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that she last had sex with Stan­cell two days prior. Among some of the ev­i­dence col- lected by in­ves­ti­ga­tors was a sex­ual as­sault nurse ex­am­i­na­tion kit, bed­ding, tow­els, re­cently worn un- der­wear, a de­sen­si­tizer spray and DNA swabs taken from Stan­cell and the girl’s boyfriend.

The girl’s mother took the stand and tes­ti­fied that Stan­cell made what seemed like ad­mis­sions of guilt to her through in­nu­en­dos used through­out a se­ries of con­ver­sa­tions fol­low­ing Nov. 6, 2015. The mother tes­ti­fied that Stan­cell would “just talk in cir­cles” and said that “he found God, and that God had for­given him,” that he was the adult and “should have known bet­ter.”

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions she said he told her, “there’s more to the story than what you’re hear­ing” and that “she set me up.”

Also called to tes­tify was Julie Kemp­ton, a foren­sic sci­en­tist at the Mary­land State Po­lice crime lab. She tes­ti­fied that in test­ing a stain found on a red pair of un­der­wear and iso­lat­ing the male DNA, she de­ter­mined there had been one ma­jor con­trib­u­tor and at least one mi­nor con­trib­u­tor. The process, called Y-STR test­ing, or short tan­dem re­peat on the Y-chro­mo­some, re­vealed that Stan­cell’s known DNA pro­file was con­sis­tent with the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor pro­file found on the un­der­wear; there­fore, he “can­not be ex­cluded.”

Re­spond­ing to ques- tions posed by Free­man, Kemp­ton ex­plained that with Y-STR test­ing, any male of the same pa­ter­nal line would have the same DNA pro­file, and since that pro­file is not unique to any one per­son, it is im- proper to say it “matched” Stan­cell’s known DNA pro­file, though he could not be ex­cluded.

Dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion by de­fense at­tor­ney Thomas Mooney, Kemp­ton ex­plained that over 99 per­cent of the DNA found on the un­der­wear was fe­male DNA, and only about .1 per­cent was male. Mooney also asked ques­tions about the pos- sibil­ity of cross-con­tami- na­tion, in what ap­peared to be an at­tempt to cast doubt on the re­li­a­bil­ity of the test.

Det. Kris­ten Gross, the lead de­tec­tive, was called to tes­tify, and she ex­plained how the inves- tiga­tion un­folded. Gross tes­ti­fied that the girl had first said the bruises on her legs were from Stan- cell, but then told her that it was re­ally from hit­ting them against a book­shelf, once the de­tec­tive had es- tab­lished a rap­port with her. She ex­plained that it was not un­usual for vic­tims of sex­ual abuse to change their story once they feel com­fort­able with the in­ter­viewer.

Af­ter the state rested, the de­fense rested as well with­out call­ing a sin­gle wit­ness. Stan­cell de­clined his op­por­tu­nity to tes­tify.

“She knew things and de­scribed things [a young girl] should not know about [Stan­cell],” Free­man told the jury in clos­ing ar­gu­ments. “… she de­scribed it in de­tail.”

“His DNA is in the crotch of her un­der­wear,” she con­tin­ued. “The same un­der­wear she wore af­ter the last sex­ual en­counter.”

Mooney ar­gued that the al­le­ga­tions were fab­ri­cated, em­pha­siz­ing the in­con­sis­tency of the ini­tial re­port­ing of the bruises and the in­con­clu­sive­ness of the DNA tests.

“[She] made a claim, ini­tially to her friend, that Don­ald had as­saulted her and bruised her,” he said. “Shortly there­after, [she] changes her story … she has had is­sues in the past, to put it lightly,” point­ing out that her mother tes­ti­fied that in the past she had been willing to con­sent to eman­ci­pa­tion due to be­hav­ioral prob­lems and be­cause the girl fre­quently ran away from home.

Mooney called the DNA test­ings an “ever-so-sensi- tive process” and ar­gued that cross-con­tam­ina- tion is “not far-fetched.” He also pointed out that Stan­cell had two bi­o­log­i­cal sons who lived in the home whose DNA pro­file would have been con­sis­tent with the Y-STR test­ing re­sults as well.

Free­man re­sponded by say­ing there is “no con­ceiv­able way” the DNA ev­i­dence found on the un­der­wear came from the sons, who were 7 and 9 years old at the time.

In ref­er­ence to the al­leged vic­tim’s ini­tial re­port about the bruis­ing, Free­man re­ferred to Gross’ tes­ti­mony about how of­ten sex­ual abuse vic­tims do not fully dis­close un­til they feel com­fort­able with the in­ter­viewer. “All the dif­fer­ent out­cries, and she never felt safe un­til she talked to De­tec­tive Gross,” she said.

The jury be­gan de­lib­er­a­tions around 5 p.m. Tues­day, and re­turned af­ter mid­night with only a par­tial ver­dict. Rather than ac­cept­ing a par­tial ver­dict with no way of know­ing what crim­i­nal counts the ju­rors could agree on, or whether they found him in­no­cent or guilty of any of the counts, Stan­cell opted for mis­trial.

A new trial has been sched­uled for March 21.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.