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Parker Gilbert: Prosecution DOA?

Trial Commentary: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

Lara Saffo.jpgGrafton County Attorney Lara Saffo’s prosecutorial strategy is a mystery to me at this point in the Parker Gilbert trial. Friday saw a parade of nine witnesses for the prosecution: four of Gilbert’s former rugby teammates; Rebel Roberts, a Dartmouth Safety and Security officer; Hanover Police detective Eric Bates; fingerprint analyst Lisa Corson of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory; Dick’s House nurse practitioner Suzanne Stebenne; and Hanover Police Chief Frank Moran. None of the witnesses did much more than confuse the jury as to their purpose on the stand. For example, Lisa Corson simply testified that she did not find Gilbert’s fingerprints in the complainant’s dorm room. Beyond that, several witnesses allowed the defense to put forward more evidence that the complainant has frequently changed her story.

Saffo seems to put witnesses on the stand without preparing them to deal with elements of the detailed investigative report that Hanover’s Chief of Police Frank Moran compiled in his interviews with the complainant and others. Saffo should use her direct examination to confront the ostensible contradictions in Moran’s report, rather than allowing Cary to repeatedly undercut her witnesses on cross-examination with quotations from their past statements to Moran. One example came on Thursday, as the Valley News reported:

Another witness called Thursday was Kelsey Sipple [‘16], a friend of the accuser’s and the person in whom she confided after the alleged assault and who encouraged her to go to Dick’s House, the college’s health center.

During the defense’s opening statements on Tuesday, Cary had said Sipple had pressured the accuser to seek medical attention, a point the defense emphasized again while cross-examining Sipple on Thursday.

Cary said Sipple had told investigators that the woman had “casually” mentioned the incident to her when they met on the Dartmouth green around 1 p.m. on May 2, the afternoon after the alleged assault.

When Sipple said “casually” was the wrong way to describe the conversation, Cary showed her the transcript of her interview with Hanover Police Capt. Frank Moran, who investigated the assault complaint. Sipple acknowledged that she used the word, but insisted that the woman was not casual when explaining her encounter.

Even more significantly, when Moran himself was on the stand yesterday, The D noted that defense attorney Rob Cary had him confirm that when he interviewed the complainant, she told him that she had “kept on yelling ‘stop’” in the face of Gilbert’s advances:

In a brief overview of the alleged attack, the complainant made only one reference to yelling, Moran said. In her subsequent in-depth account, the complainant did not say she yelled and told him she did not speak “forcefully,” he said…

During his cross-examination by Cary, Moran confirmed that the complainant, at the beginning of her interview, said she “kept on yelling ‘stop’” during the alleged assault.

The Valley News described the same exchange between Saffo and Moran as follows:

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo asked Moran on the stand if the accuser said anything about “yelling” at Gilbert during the alleged assault. Moran replied the accuser mentioned she did yell in protest when she initially told her story , but didn’t mention it again when he asked her more detailed questions.

“She told me that she didn’t speak forcefully to indicate any volume to it,” Moran said.

Saffo next asked Moran to read from the transcript of his interview with the accuser.

According to the transcript, the accuser told Moran that she h ad been emerging from a “deep sleep,” and when she became fully conscious she realized that Gilbert was having sex with her.

“And I guess, I don’t know, I just didn’t freak out because I had just woken up, and I said, ‘No, no, no. I want to go to sleep.’ But I wasn’t forceful about it and I just said, ‘No, I want to go to sleep.’ … Stop, I kept on yelling stop.”

The accuser explained that she fell to the floor because she was in a lot of pain and made some sort of “pain sound,” according to the transcript. When she was on the floor, she told Moran that Gilbert said “Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry. You’re OK. You’re OK.” Then the woman told Moran that Gilbert said, “Get back on the bed.”

Moran’s presence seemed of little value to the prosecution, but this revelation, coming shortly after Thursday’s testimony by the complainant’s roommate that she heard nothing alarming in the bedroom where Gilbert and the complainant engaged in sex, throws the complainant’s sincerity and veracity into further doubt for the jury.

The prosecution will continue to present its case on Monday, perhaps with the testimony of the staff members at DHMC who examined the complainant.

Addendum: More than a half-dozen students, all of whom returned to the Upper Valley upon receiving subpoenas from Saffo, have yet to testify in the trial.

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