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Experts Give Last of Gang-Rape Testimony

Key issues include whether the girl was unconscious and a videotape was doctored.

June 18, 2004|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

Testimony in an Orange County gang-rape trial ended Thursday with both sides calling rebuttal witnesses to bolster their cases before next week's closing arguments.

The witnesses, experts in their respective fields, addressed three matters at the heart of the trial: the alleged victim's purported unconsciousness at the time, the injuries that prosecutors say she suffered, and the integrity of a videotape of the incident.

The trial judge weighed in again on the tape Thursday, saying it would remain in evidence despite an argument by the defense that it might have been tampered with last week by a prosecution witness.

Charged in the 2002 incident are Gregory Scott Haidl, 18, and Kyle Joseph Nachreiner and Keith James Spann, both 19. Each faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted on all counts of raping a girl, who was 16 at the time, and sexually assaulting her with objects including a pool cue and a lighted cigarette.

The four-woman, eight-man jury will return to the Santa Ana courtroom Tuesday to hear the lawyers' final arguments and are expected to begin deliberating next week.

Two defense witnesses recalled to the stand Thursday reiterated that the girl was conscious during the encounter, although she has testified that she does not remember what happened.

Neurologist Dr. Harris Fisk said the girl made several movements in the video that he interpreted as consciously controlled, such as raising her arms to encircle one of the boys while they are engaged in sexual activity.

If the boys were hurting the girl, Fisk said, "the protective response would be to push away, not to encircle."

Defense lawyers have focused much of their effort on proving that the girl, called Jane Doe in court, feigned unconsciousness.

"Based on the totality of the videotape," defense attorney John D. Barnett asked Fisk, "could she decide whether or not she wanted to have sex or sexual conduct with the boys?"

Fisk answered, "Yes."

Dr. Marvin Corman, a rectal expert, testified that Jane Doe must have allowed the boys to do what they did, otherwise he would have seen evidence of injury.

Video expert Brad Hagen testified for the prosecution that the video presented in court viewings as the original is in fact the unedited original, not doctored, as the defense has said.

The defense had filed a motion to exclude the tape, alleging that it could have been tampered with using Hagen's equipment, when Hagen and Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Hess viewed it outside the presence of Superior Court Judge Francisco P. Briseno and defense attorneys.

Outside the jury's presence Thursday, Briseno denied the motion, saying he was satisfied that nothing had happened that would hurt the defense.

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