Rape Trial Deliberations Begin

Thursday, March 27, 2014
UPDATE: The jury reached a verdict Thursday afternoon. Read more at this link.

North Haverhill — The jury began deliberations late Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Parker C. Gilbert, the former Dartmouth College student accused of rape.

Earlier, attorneys on both sides made their final pitches to jurors, with t he defense claiming that the accuser made a false report and prosecutors contending the woman had no reason to lie.

The 12 jurors met for about 30 minutes before being sent home for the day a little after 4 p.m. Deliberations are set to resume at 9 a.m. today.

Defense attorney Robert Cary opened and ended his closing argument by focusing on the accuser’s suitemate, Nancy Wu, who was up late studying in an adjoining room at the time of the alleged attack.

Wu testified last week that she didn’t hear any voices or sounds that made her think a sexual assault was occurring. She said the only words she could make out were the accuser saying, “Don’t push me.”

“Sober Nancy Wu, studious Nancy Wu,” Cary said. “The one witness who wasn’t drinking that night.”

The defense also focused on discrepancies, particularly in the accuser’s account, during testimony.

When it was their turn, prosecutors described the accuser as a freshman student who loved Dartmouth, was doing well in her classes, planned to become an architect and was a member of a popular campus singing group.

“Everything was going well for (the accuser) at Dartmouth,” Assistant Grafton County Attorney Paul Fitzgerald said. “She loved it there. ... Dartmouth was her new home.”

The accuser, who is from Connecticut, had no motive to invent an allegation that a classmate assaulted her, Fitzgerald said, because she knew that if she made a false report, her time at the college would end in disarray.

Prosecutors allege that Gilbert entered the accuser’s unlocked dorm room in the early hours of May 2, 2013, and began assaulting her while she was asleep. (As a general practice, the Valley News does not name the victims of alleged sex assaults.)

T he defense has argued that the sexual encounter was consensual “clumsy, awkward, drunk college sex.”

Gilbert is charged with five felony counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.

Cary made the case to the jury that the accuser’s account of events simply doesn’t make sense.

He pointed out discrepancies between her testimony and interviews, including that she had told her mother that she was in pain after the assault, but didn’t tell a nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center about the pain.

She also told the nurse that she had relatively little to drink — three beers — and she was lucid, when in reality she had also consumed vodka shots.

“The truth matters, and you can’t trust what this particular witness said,” Cary said.

Cary also claimed that the accuser was pressured to go to the hospital and get an exam by her friend, who met with the accuser and told her to visit Dick’s House, the campus health center.

“It was (the friend) who told her that what happened qualified as rape,” Cary said. “The complainant was confused in the hands of somebody with an agenda.”

Cary also provided a possible scenario that he said explained the night’s events.

According to Cary, rather than enter the accuser’s room without permission, Gilbert entered the dorm at about 2:30 a.m. and came across the woman in the hallway before they had consensual sex in her room.

During the trial, none of the witnesses testified to seeing Gilbert and the woman in the hallway together.

During the prosecution’s closing arguments, Fitzgerald told the jury that the accuser had to tell her story numerous times to police investigators, nurses, family and her testimony in court. While their may have been minor discrepancies, he said, the core of what she said was consistent.

“Attorney Cary wants you to believe that because (the accuser) was not clear on the scenarios, she’s not credible,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said the accuser has nothing to hide and gave consent for police to search her cell phone.

Fitzgerald also reminded the jury that the accuser told Gilbert to stop once she was awake and fully aware of what was happening to her.

“Ladies and gentlemen, ‘no’ is a very little word. Two letters,” Fitzgerald said. “But it is the most powerful expression in a person’s mindset. No means no.”

Fitzgerald also said that Wu testified she heard the door close when Gilbert left, but she did not hear the door to the accuser’s room open when Gilbert entered.

“This is significant,” Fitzgerald said, “because he was sneaking in.”

Fitzgerald also pointed to an apologetic email Gilbert sent to the woman a few days after their encounter.

The email read: “I wanted to offer my apologies for my actions on Wednesday. While I do not remember much of that night, judging by your reaction to seeing me last night and the small parts I do remember, I believe I must have acted inappropriately and I am so so sorry. Drunkenness is no excuse and I don’t know what else I could do but offer my sincere apologies. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.”

At one point, Fitzgerald turned around to look directly at Gilbert, who did not testify during the trial, and alleged Gilbert sent the email because he couldn’t bear to face the woman in person.

“(The accuser) came here last Tuesday, she sat in this box here and told the jury exactly what you did to her,” Fitzgerald said. “(She) is here today. (She) is not afraid to confront the defendant, but he, because of what he has done, is afraid to confront (her).”

Although Gilbert and his family moved to London when he was 6, they have strong Upper Valley ties.

His paternal grandfather, John J. Gilbert, is a retired biology professor at Dartmouth College who has been attending the trial regularly, along with dozens of other family members.

Parker Gilbert’s father grew up in Hanover, and the defendant’s parents, John and Lynn Gilbert, are listed on Newbury, N.H., assessing records as the owners of a home on Lake Sunapee.

On Wednesday, the accuser’s father, mother and two friends — all of whom testified previously — sat in the front row for the first time since the trial began last week and listened to the defense’s closing arguments.

The accuser later joined the group and sat by her father in time to hear the prosecution’s remarks.

While Fitzgerald spoke, the father wrapped his arm around the accuser and she leaned her head against his shoulder. After the remarks concluded, the accuser’s father quickly escorted her out of the courtroom.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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