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Defense in St. Paul’s case takes aim at accuser, requests medical records

Last modified: 8/4/2015 5:47:35 PM
Lawyers for the St. Paul’s School graduate accused of raping an underclassman have signaled that they plan to attack the credibility of the alleged victim, requesting medical and educational records from her time at the elite Concord private school.

In documents filed Friday in Merrimack County Superior Court, the attorneys for Owen Labrie said the girl waited days to report the alleged assault, and that she described the encounter as amicable to friends and a sibling during that time. In fact, they wrote, a close friend recalled that she seemed calm when he saw her immediately after the encounter, describing it to him as “fine.”

They further claimed that one of the girl’s female relatives had been in a “sexual relationship” with Labrie before the encounter, and “was upset” that he and the girl had met the day of the encounter. Labrie has previously acknowledged a relationship with the relative, but described it to investigators as platonic, according to an affidavit.

The 19-year-old is accused of sexually assaulting the then-freshman in an on-campus building May 30, 2014, two days before graduation. The girl said the encounter began agreeably, but that she repeatedly told Labrie to stop when it began to turn sexual. Labrie told investigators that he did stop, after putting on a condom.

The defense had until Friday to strike a plea deal with county prosecutors. A trial is set to open Aug. 17.

Labrie’s attorneys have requested access to the girl’s records, citing several reasons and claiming it is relevant, “as it may affect her faculties, rationality, and behavior.”

The prosecution, meanwhile, has filed its own string of last-minute motions, including a request to question an expert witness about symptoms commonly found in victims of sexual assault, and another to admit comments the girl reportedly made to a trauma nurse four days after the encounter.

Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle declined to comment Monday about specifics of the case. Both sides are scheduled to debate their pending motions Aug. 17, the day of jury selection. The trial is expected to last a week and will include a visit by the jury to St. Paul’s School.

Victims’ advocates often criticize tactics like the one the defense could be using – shifting blame away from the accused.

“Strategies like this have a very real impact on all victims,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, public policy director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, in an email. “When the focus of a criminal procedure shifts from the offender’s conduct to the victim, the victim becomes the subject of inappropriate and irrelevant scrutiny in the court system and in the media. As a result, future victims will be less likely to report to police or engage in the criminal justice process at all.”

Labrie, who is charged with three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, was in court briefly Friday morning with his parents and attorney J.W. Carney. Carney declined to say whether Labrie will testify, or comment substantively on the motions.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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