On Monday morning, prosecuting attorneys opened the second week of the trial against Parker Gilbert ’16, accused of rape, by calling further witnesses and relying heavily on medical records and visual aids. The day centered around testimony from Elizabeth Morse ’77, a sexual assault nurse examiner who saw the complainant at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center following her initial examination at Dick’s House.
Gilbert, 21, who is no longer enrolled in classes at the College, is charged with seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault against a 19-year-old female undergraduate student and one count of criminal trespass for entering her room uninvited in the early morning of May 2, 2013. As a general practice, The Dartmouth does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
Gilbert, of London, was arrested May 15. If convicted, Gilbert could serve up to 20 years in prison for each count of sexual assault.
Morse, who works both as a Dick’s House nurse practitioner and per-diem SANE at DHMC, said she first examined the complainant on the afternoon of May 2.
Morse walked the jury through SANE protocol, starting with a patient’s options for reporting sexual assault. During a medical examination, a patient may choose to include his or her name and report the assault to the police. He or she may also be assigned a number and undergo evidence collection anonymously while deciding whether to report. A patient may also choose to simply receive medical care.
The complainant chose to report anonymously, and during the complainant’s visit, Morse heard her account of the alleged assault. County prosecutor Lara Saffo asked Morse to read through her notes from the recorded medical history.
The complainant told Morse that she had gone out with friends at 11:55 p.m. on May 1 and “had a little bit to drink” but “was lucid,” according to the records. She recalled seeing a “boy with a black baseball cap” who tried to get her to talk to his friends. She returned to her residence hall soon after, feeling sad about a family dog that was to be euthanized. A female floormate stayed over and shared her bed. The Dartmouth has not identified this individual or other floormates to preserve the complainant’s identity.
Around 3 a.m. a male friend who lived down the hall heard banging on his door and opened it to find a man wearing a black baseball cap. The complainant told Morse she thought he had been looking for her.
The complainant reported being “dead asleep” and waking up to Gilbert raping her. When she asked him to stop, she had said to Morse, Gilbert allegedly responded, “No, no, say that you like it.” The complainant told Morse she then responded in the affirmative because she “wanted him to stop.” She told Morse that Gilbert held her hands down and continued to rape her vaginally, then anally.
According to the account, Gilbert pushed the complainant to the ground, where she told Morse she had crouched because she was in pain. She said Gilbert then forced her to engage in fellatio, which took about five minutes. Gilbert was unable to ejaculate, according to the complainant’s medical history.
During the alleged assault and after Gilbert left the room, the complainant said she could not wake the friend sharing her bed. The alleged victim fell asleep, woke at 8 a.m. to silence her roommate’s alarm and then slept until 10:30 a.m.
On the medical report, Morse noted that the complainant was articulate, made eye contact and “expresses disgust when describing experiences last night.”
Saffo then asked Morse to walk the jury through her examination of the complainant. Morse said she did not collect a blood and urine toxicology sample because it is only used in cases where an assault may have been drug-assisted.
Morse said she collected three pairs of underpants from the complainant, one of which the complainant said she was “almost sure” she had worn during the alleged assault, another which had been lying on her bedroom floor and a third which she wore to DHMC. The underpants were tested for semen and other material, Morse said.
Morse said she collected various samples including oral, anal and vaginal swabs and smears. Morse also detailed whether the complainant had done anything to affect the evidence, including showering or brushing her teeth.
Moving to the medical exam, Morse explained each abnormality she had noticed on the complainant’s body, including multiple bruises of varying sizes. She went into similar detail with the complainant’s genital examination, noting that the normally gentle technique caused pain for the complainant.
Saffo then showed the jury several photographs Morse took during her examination. The pictures were displayed on a screen tilted toward the jury box, visible to the judge and defense but not to those seated in the gallery. With Saffo’s prompting, Morse explained each picture.
In his cross-examination of Morse, attorney Robert Cary ’86, of Williams and Connolly, called attention to several inconsistencies in Morse’s examination. Though she had noted that the complainant’s fingernails showed potential protein deposits, the SANE kit did not include any fingernail scrapings. Morse said this was a mistake.
Cary also insisted that “pain” is subjective, questioning Morse’s assertion that the complainant felt pain upon genital examination. The complainant had not asserted that any of the bruises Morse noticed were painful, nor did she complain of pain until Morse began traction, Cary stated.
In a space designated to note weapons or threats used on the medical forensic examination form, Morse recorded the complainant as saying that Gilbert had addressed her with a derogatory epithet. Cary asked Morse whether this constituted either use of a weapon or a threat.
“She felt threatened, in my view,” Morse said. “But I am quoting her.”
Cary closed by highlighting that the complainant told Morse she had three beers the night of the alleged assault.
“Did she tell you about the vodka she drank that night?” Cary asked.
When Morse said no, Cary asked if she had performed either urine or blood tests to measure the complainant’s blood alcohol level. Morse said she had not.
In her redirect examination of Morse, Saffo asked if the complainant seemed hung over or suggested that the alleged assault occurred because she was drunk. Morse replied that the complainant had not.
The prosecution then called Susan Faith, a criminalist at the New Hampshire State Police forensic laboratory. Faith explained that her job is to examine samples for body fluids such as blood, seminal material and saliva, and to perform a DNA analysis.
Faith was responsible for analyzing the kit containing evidence from Morse’s SANE examination of the complainant. A swab from the left anterior chest showed a weak positive for saliva, but the remaining external swabs, as well as the rectal, vaginal and external genitalia swabs and smears all came back negative.
Using DNA from buccal swabs of both the complainant and Gilbert, Faith ran an analysis to determine the source of the saliva on the left anterior chest. The test determined that the saliva came from multiple sources, and she could not rule out Gilbert, she said.
Saffo asked if Faith would expect to find sperm if someone did not ejaculate, to which Faith responded in the negative.
For its final witness of the day, the prosecution called Alexandra Jarvis ’16, a friend of the complainant. Jarvis said she had been with the complainant at Beta Alpha Omega fraternity the night of the alleged assault, but she left before the complainant. Jarvis said she did not remember the complainant being upset that night or hearing her discuss Gilbert.
Jarvis said she and the complainant met for lunch the next week, describing the complainant as “crying and emotional.”
Jarvis said she observed a change in the complainant’s demeanor following the alleged assault, including during Green Key weekend, noting that she seemed stressed and withdrawn.
In the cross-examination, defense attorney George Ostler of DesMeules, Olmstead and Ostler showed Jarvis a picture from her Facebook account posted over Green Key weekend, featuring herself, the complainant and another female student.
He also asked Jarvis to read from a statement she had previously given Hanover Police chief Frank Moran where she stated the complainant told her Gilbert “never ejaculated” and “eventually just kind of left and she went to bed,” and that “because she’d had something to drink” it “might have inhibited her from fighting back as much as she could and hence why she just went right back to bed afterwards.”
In the re-direct, Saffo also asked Jarvis to read from a statement she had previously given Moran, saying that the complaint was “handling it pretty well” but had moments where she got “very upset,” especially because her “best friend was right there” and didn’t wake up during the alleged assault.
Court will resume tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., when the prosecution will call its next witness in the case against Gilbert.
This article was initially published in print on Tuesday, March 25 with the headline "Gilbert trial shifts focus to medical exam."
Editor's note (June 15, 2014): Gilbert was acquitted of all charges on March 27, 2014. For a full story, click here.