'Explosive' testimony in day 2 of Bourne's abuse trial
Stephen Bourne stands outside of his house; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl, the jury in the trial was brought to Bourne's house to view some of the rooms that will be presented as evidence in the case.
(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013.
(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
A mistrial could be declared this morning in the case against Stephen Bourne after testimony the judge called “explosive” was given yesterday by the mother of the girl Bourne is accused of sexually abusing.
Bourne, of Concord, is on trial at Merrimack County Superior Court this week facing accusations by a now-12-year-old girl who said Bourne touched her between 2009 and 2010 on her genitals while they watched movies at his home. But the girl testified yesterday that 53-year-old Bourne also came to her Contoocook home in 2011 where he touched her on her back in a way that made her uncomfortable and asked to take a picture of her on his phone.
The possibly inflammatory evidence came into play when the girl’s mother took the stand and testified that Bourne had showed her daughter pictures on his phone of “girls without many clothes on.” The mother, who is not being named to protect the girl’s identity, said that her daughter told her she “didn’t like it.”
“That is exactly what she said and continued to say for days after that and months after that and a year after that,” the mother said.
Bourne has also been accused of possessing child pornography, charges he has not been convicted of and which are not included in this trial.
After Judge Richard McNamara excused the jury, Bourne’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, asked for a mistrial, calling the evidence “highly prejudicial” and saying the mother, who had become combative during the attorney’s questioning, was “out of control.”
He argued the testimony was so damaging to the fairness of the trial that the mistake couldn’t be fixed by simply telling the jury to ignore it.
But Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle argued that the mother hadn’t said the images were pornographic. If they were just photos of girls in bathing suits, for example, Bourne hadn’t been accused of any crimes beyond the ones he is on trial for, she said.
Judge Richard McNamara, who said he would make a call on how to proceed this morning, didn’t seem to agree.
“That’s a nice argument. But wasn’t the testimony that the alleged victim was so upset by it that for weeks she was complaining to her mother about it?” McNamara asked.
Ruffle agreed that it was.
“So we can fairly assume that it’s not referencing children in bathing suits,” the judge continued.
The girl’s testimony
The girl took the stand as the trial’s second day began yesterday, and her testimony stretched more than two hours. Ruffle had told the jury in her opening statement that the girl would tell them about the abuse, how Bourne had sat in his recliner with her in his lap during their movie nights, covering them with a blanket so his wife and her mother couldn’t see him touch her beneath her clothes.
But Ruffle struggled to elicit those details yesterday.
The girl, tall for her age with long brown hair parted down the center, was easily seen behind the high podium but difficult to hear, and several jury members leaned forward as she spoke. Her words were low and muffled by a head cold, and often she paused for long periods – whether contemplating her answers, confused by the questions or uncomfortable with the sensitive subject and the full, gazing audience.
When she answered, it was mostly with a “yes” or a “no.”
She said she had sat in Bourne’s lap during the movie nights. But she didn’t mention a blanket covering them.
“Did you watch the movies all year long?” Ruffle asked as the girl nodded. “And sometimes in the winter was it cold?”
But Sisti objected, and after the lawyers spoke briefly with the judge Ruffle tried another approach.
“When you were sitting on Mr. Bourne’s lap do you remember where his arms may have been?” Ruffle said, then asked the girl to describe it for her.
“The reclining chair,” the girl responded.
“Were his arms touching you?”
“No,” she replied.
“Were his hands touching you?”
The girl paused.
“I don’t really remember,” she said.
When Ruffle asked again, the girl said there had been touching but that it was hard to talk about.
“Maybe it’s hard because I’m so far away,” Ruffle said, walking from her podium toward the front of the courtroom.
Ruffle placed her hands gently on the witness stand, then began asking a string of questions, pausing as the girl gave a quiet “yes” to each.
“You said that he touched you on your stomach? . . . . And he touched you on your back? Was there any other part of you that he had touched?”
She said there was.
“What other part did he touch?” Ruffle asked.
“Where I go to the bathroom,” she said.
It happened that way every time she went there for movie night, maybe 15 to 25 times over two years, according to the girl. And she said that she had wished her mother or Bourne’s wife, Janet, had noticed, but she never protested.
When Sisti questioned the girl, he asked why, if Bourne had touched her so many times, she hadn’t asked him to stop or told her mother.
“Now is it your testimony that in fact Mr. Bourne penetrated you, put his finger inside of you?” he asked.
She said it was.
“And you didn’t make any single move? Or protest? Or wiggle? Or anything like that? You just were completely still? You didn’t do anything to raise any suspicion whatsoever?” he asked.
The girl said “no” to each question, and she continued to say “no” as the questions continued.
“You didn’t react to the physical penetration of your vaginal area? At all? Twenty-five times? Within one or two feet of your mom and Mrs. Bourne? You didn’t tell Mr. Bourne to knock it off? You didn’t make any strange faces? You didn’t go off to your mom afterwards and complain about it?”
In her opening statements Ruffle had told the jury that the girl didn’t know it was wrong when Bourne first began abusing her. Yesterday, she asked the girl whether she knew the name for the place where Bourne had touched her. And when the girl said she didn’t, Ruffle asked whether her mother had ever spoken to her about her “private parts.”
The girl said she hadn’t, but testified that her mother had encouraged her to tell her if she was ever touched.
“Did she tell you what parts that would be?” Ruffle asked.
The prosecutor also called the girl’s doctor to testify yesterday. The charges were filed against Bourne shortly after the girl told Dr. Patricia Clancy during an annual physical that she had been touched inappropriately.
Clancy said on the stand that the girl hadn’t described Bourne penetrating her with his finger, a detail the girl maintained during her testimony that she had told her doctor.
After Sisti called for a mistrial, McNamara told the lawyers to meet in the courtroom at 10 a.m. today. He said that by the time the jury arrived at 10:30 a.m. he would have decided how to proceed.
Ruffle didn’t say yesterday whether she would retry the case if it’s deemed a mistrial.