Campus Rape Trial Underway: Jury Begins With Visit to Dartmouth Dorm
Defense Attorneys Robert Cary, left, and Cathy Green stand with their client, Parker Gilbert on the porch of Berry Hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., at the beginning of the jury viewing on March 17, 2014. Gilbert is charged with seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault after a 19-year-old female student alleged that he entered her unlocked dorm room and sexually assaulted her early on May 2, 2013.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap
From left, Judge Peter Bornstein, two Prosecutors, Attorney Paul Fitzgerald and Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo, and Defense Attorney George Ostler walk towards Berry Hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., during a jury viewing on March 17, 2014. Parker Gilbert, who was also present at the viewing with all three of his attorneys, is charged with seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault after a 19-year-old female student alleged that he entered her unlocked dorm room in Berry Hall and sexually assaulted her early on May 2nd.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap
North Haverhill — The trial of the former Dartmouth College rugby player charged with raping a female student began with jurors visiting the Hanover dormitory where the incident allegedly occurred last May.
Parker C. Gilbert has been charged with seven felony counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of criminal trespassing. After the jury was sworn in on Monday afternoon in North Haverhill, they boarded a bus for the hour drive south to Dartmouth, where they visited Berry Hall on Maynard Street.
“The evidence you’re about to see on this view is going to be as important as any evidence you could hear or see in this case,” George Ostler, one of the defense attorneys, told the jurors before they departed. “Everybody’s heard the saying, ‘A picture’s worth a thousand words.’ Well, being there in this case is worth a million words, especially when you’ve got a lot of lawyers involved.”
The trial started Monday — also Gilbert’s 21st birthday — and is scheduled to last two weeks at the Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill. Gilbert has a three-person defense team: Ostler, of DesMeules, Olmstead & Ostler in Norwich; Cathy Green, of Green & Utter in Manchester; and Robert Cary, of Williams & Connolly in Washington D.C.
Cary is a Dartmouth alumnus and high-profile attorney who represented the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, when he was exonerated on ethics charges.
In the minutes before the trial began, Gilbert, wearing a blue dress shirt, navy suit jacket and red tie, stood in a small circle of relatives and spoke with them quietly. Once Monday’s proceedings began, about a dozen people — all of whom appeared to be supporters of Gilbert — sat in the gallery behind the defendant’s table, where Gilbert sat sandwiched between his three attorneys facing the jury box.
Gilbert is no longer a student, and according to court documents, he has been living in the Newbury, N.H., area.
According to court filings and indictments, the state alleges that Gilbert entered the victim’s dorm room in the early morning hours of May 2, 2013 and engaged in sexual penetration while she was asleep through physical force, physical violence or superior physical strength. Once the victim woke up, the state alleges Gilbert continued to sexually assault her.
Defense attorneys filed a motion last fall outlining their request for jurors to visit the dorm, arguing that the visit would allow the jury to assess the credibility of witnesses’ testimony about events on the night in question.
In the motion requesting a jury view, the defense states that a roommate and friend were in the same suite as the victim at the time of the alleged assault. The defense’s motion states that discovery material shows that the victim’s roommate was studying nearby and “only heard sounds consistent with consensual sex,” while a friend slept through the alleged assault as the victim claims she yelled out.
When the jurors arrived on campus, they were greeted by Judge Peter Bornstein, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo and her colleague Paul Fitzgerald, and Gilbert and his three attorneys. Gilbert’s family stayed behind in North Haverhill and did not attend the jury view.
When reporters and a documentary filmmaker tried following the jury into Berry Hall, they were stopped by Dartmouth Safety and Security officers and told they couldn’t go inside.
Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson told the Valley News that the college was obligated by the court to allow the jury into Berry Hall, but as a general practice, the college prohibits third parties from entering student rooms and dormitories out of concern for privacy.
While the media was barred from the dormitory, Saffo addressed the 14 jurors before departing and provided a sense of what jurors would see.
Once the jurors arrived at Berry Hall, Saffo explained, they would be asked to note the bike rack next to the building and to take note of the door and the scanner used to gain access to the building.
The jurors would then be taken to the second floor, where they would be asked to take note of student rooms, a common area and a study hall. The jurors would then be taken into unit 204, a suite that contains two rooms.
In the first room, the jurors would be asked to pay attention to the bunk bed, a desk and the door between the adjoining rooms. In the second room, they would also be asked to notice the furniture.
Ostler told the jury to pay particular attention to room 204, everything from the floor to the lighting.
Once the jury view was over, the jurors stepped onto the bus and headed back to North Haverhill. The prosecutors and defense attorneys parted ways, and Gilbert entered a car with his three attorneys.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today, when opening statements are scheduled.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.