Rape Trial Ends in Acquittal
At Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, N.H., on March 27, 2014, Parker C. Gilbert gets a hug and kiss from his mother, Lynn Gilbert, after the jury found him not guilty of five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of criminal trespass in the alleged rape of a Dartmouth College classmate in her dorm room last spring. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Parker C. Gilbert, second from left, checks his phone while leaving Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, N.H., with his family on March 27, 2014. Gilbert was found not guilty of five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of criminal trespass in the alleged rape of a Dartmouth College classmate in her dorm room last spring. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
North Haverhill — The foreman of the jury that found Parker C. Gilbert not guilty of sexually assaulting a Dartmouth College classmate said jurors were not swayed by the accuser’s account, which they found implausible.
Rick Rogers, of Enfield, was one of 12 jurors — six men and six women — who found Gilbert not guilty of five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge on Thursday. Deliberations lasted about four hours.
“(The woman’s) story of how the night played out, the evidence wasn’t there to support that,” Rogers said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “To the contrary, it was more in Parker’s favor. Her statement in the morning (to a friend) — that Parker stopped by and we had sex — is just not the answer that a rape victim would have.”
The prosecution had alleged Gilbert entered the woman’s unlocked dorm room in the early hours of May 2 and began having sex with her while she was asleep. The defense argued that the sexual encounter was consensual, “clumsy, awkward, drunk college sex.”
Rogers said there were many pieces of the accuser’s story that the jury thought pointed to consensual sex, including that the next morning when she told a friend about the encounter, she didn’t characterize it as an assault.
The fact that after Gilbert left the room, the woman went to sleep without even locking the door also stuck out to jurors, Rogers said. As did the woman’s decision not to alert a residence hall adviser who lived on the floor.
Rogers said other evidence also swayed the jury, including the testimony of Nancy Wu, the suitemate who said that she was awake and heard sounds consistent with consensual sex.
Rogers described Wu as the most credible witness.
The jury also took into account an email Gilbert sent the woman two days after the sexual encounter in which he apologized for his drunkenness.
Rogers said he’s never heard of a rapist who apologizes, and said if Gilbert had been apologizing for an assault in the email, he would have acknowledged that fact.
“There is tons and tons of evidence that just doesn’t add up,” Rogers said, “and to find somebody guilty of rape that will change everyone’s life, it has to be solid evidence and we have to feel that completely, and we did not.”
Rogers said he feels sorry for the accuser, whom he thinks was misled by a friend who encouraged her to go to the hospital and get an exam, but perhaps more so for Gilbert.
“To accuse somebody of rape and to not be able to prove it. ... It just hurts, and I feel very sorry for Parker and his family,” Rogers said.
Another juror, Lourie Herrin, when reached at home, said, “I’m happy with the outcome,” but declined to discuss more details.
Other jurors either declined to comment Thursday evening or could not be reached.
Gilbert was expressionless after the jury announced the verdict and remained so until his mother wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek, at which point he smiled.
Jury deliberations resumed at 9 a.m. after jurors had met for about 30 minutes on Wednesday. The verdict was announced at 1:15 p.m.
Over the trial’s first eight days, the jury visited the dorm building where the woman’s dorm room was located and heard testimony from a number of Darmouth students, including the accuser, about the night of May first and the early morning hours of May 2 of last year. A number of the witnesses had been drinking heavily on the night in question. Gilbert did not testify.
The defense attorneys released a statement afterward that read, “We are relieved that this nightmare is over for Parker Gilbert and his family. Parker is innocent and we thank the men and women of the jury for doing their job. We are also grateful to Parker’s family and friends who stood by him during this 10-month ordeal.”
When the final not guilty verdict was read on Thursday, defense attorney Cathy Green patted Gilbert on the back.
When the court adjourned, Gilbert’s family stood up and his parents tightly embraced each other as they quietly wept.
Gilbert hugged his three attorneys, including Robert Cary and George Ostler, before he was whisked outside of the courtroom and into a conference room.
In the courthouse lobby, Gilbert’s family members and friends hugged each other and took turns going into a conference room to speak with Gilbert and his parents.
One supporter hugged Green and said, “I haven’t met you, but thank you,” while another person shook Ostler’s hand.
About half an hour after the verdict was announced, Gilbert was escorted out of the conference room by his parents and siblings, and security guards followed them to the car. The family declined to comment.
In an interview after the verdict, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said, “We greatly appreciate the hard work and attentiveness this jury showed. It’s a long trial, and I’m sure they worked very hard on their verdict. We know these are difficult cases.”
On Wednesday, the accuser and her parents, who both testified, sat in the gallery for the first time to listen to closing arguments.
Throughout the trial, supporters of the accuser from a victim’s advocacy group, residents of Kendal at Hanover and other community members had filled the gallery.
Thursday afternoon, when the verdict was read, the only people in the gallery were about two dozen members of Gilbert’s family, members of the media and retired Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone.
Peggy O’Neil, the director of WISE, the victims advocacy group, attended numerous days of the trial. She said in an interview Thursday that she attended to show support for the accuser’s willingness to participate in the prosecution.
O’Neil said it’s rare for a rape case to reach a trial. One main reason, she said, is that it’s often the accuser who ends up facing more scrutiny in court.
O’Neil said that was the case at this trial, where Gilbert did not testify and very little was shared about his motives or thoughts on the night in question.
The outcome of this trial, she said, reinforces concerns women have about reporting an alleged assault and participating in a trial.
“The trial focused almost exclusively on the victim, her behavior before, during and after the assaults,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said she was not surprised by the verdict but still “extremely disappointed” for the accuser.
O’Neil said there are many misconceptions about sexual assault. Most assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, most don’t result in physical injury and evidence is not always obvious, she said.
“There needs to be a cultural shift in our understanding of sexual assault,” O’Neil said.
Maggie Cassidy contributed to this report. Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.