In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors posed just one question to the Juneau Superior Court jury hearing a domestic violence assault case wherein the alleged victim recanted on the witness stand: “Is she Meryl Streep?”
Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams argued the alleged victim in the case must be “the greatest actress this world may have ever seen” if she in fact fabricated her story of being choked by her live-in boyfriend, 30-year-old Jesse H. Boone, twice last December.
The alleged victim testified on the first day of trial last Tuesday that Boone choked her on Dec. 5 and Dec. 10, 2012. But she changed her story during cross-examination and said she made up the Dec. 5 incident.
Boone’s attorney replayed the audio recording of that testimony for the jury during closing arguments, pointing out that the woman even admitted to putting red marks on her own neck to feign injury and admitted to lying under oath.
“She lied to all of us again and again,” Boone’s attorney Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee said.
Boone is charged with two counts of felony assault for each of the separate December instances. The maximum possible penalty he could receive if convicted on all four counts is 30 years in prison.
The state is asking that if the jury does not find Boone guilty of those felony offenses that they find him guilty of the lesser included offense of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors said Boone attacked the woman in their Glacier View Trailer Park home on Stephen Richards Memorial Drive on both occasions because he had come home angry and drunk. The alleged victim fled to her nearby mother’s house after the first incident and to a neighbor’s home after the second incident.
The recanting, Williams argued, was due to the fact that the woman was scared to confront Boone and because she was intimidated by Lee’s questions on cross-examination. The prosecutor called a rebuttal witness Monday morning, the District Attorney Office’s Victim Witness Paralegal Joanne Carson, who said that’s what the woman told her as she collapsed crying on the floor of the courtroom lobby during a break in her testimony last Tuesday.
Lee mocked that possibility during closing arguments and imitated the woman by melodramatically falling to the courtroom floor. Lee said it was more likely that the woman displayed that behavior because that’s her tell for when she’s lying. The defense maintains that the woman fabricated both incidents to fleece money out of the defendant and his family and because Boone planned to leave her.
Williams asked the jury to consider evidence in the case that corroborates the woman’s original story of domestic violence: testimony from responding police officers who said the woman was scared and hysterical, testimony from doctors who said her injuries were consistent with her story of being strangled, and testimony from the three neighbors who said Boone had pounded on their door minutes later demanding to be let in.
“In order to believe that this was all fabricated by her, you would have to believe one thing about the victim, and that is that she is the greatest actress this world may have ever seen,” Williams said, “because she convinced four lay witnesses — her mom and three people who didn’t even know her. She convinced four experienced police officers, and two experienced emergency room doctors, and she contrived to cause very serious injuries to herself, injuries that could kill her. And she never broke character.”
Williams emphasized the fact that the woman was partially nude when she ran to the neighbors house on Dec. 10 because the woman reportedly lost her top in the struggle with Boone. The defense, however, questioned how the woman could have lost the three layers of clothes she had on — a T-shirt, a tank-top and a bra — all in one swell twist, as the woman had described it.
Lee said it was curious that the two stories the alleged victim told were so “eerily similar”, and she argued the woman told the same lie twice. Lee pointed out that the doctors who treated the woman at the hospital testified the wounds on the woman’s neck could have been self-inflicted. Lee also pointed out that when the neighbors heard Boone’s knock on their door the night of Dec. 10 and informed him that the cops were en route, Boone responded, “Good. I’ll wait for them here.”
“He had nothing to hide,” Lee said, although the state noted Boone was found back at the couple’s trailer where he was arrested.
Regardless of motive, though, Lee argued the woman cannot be believed after she recanted on the stand.
“Can we really believe her at this point?” Lee asked. “... Can you really believe her after what she said about the Dec. 5 incident? It’s kind of like she’s saying, ‘Yeah, the first one’s a lie, OK? I’ll give you that but the second one, that one’s totally true. Yeah, I didn’t make that one up at all.’ After admitting to fabricating the first one, she wants us to believe that the second one really happened.”
In her rebuttal argument, Williams said it was unreasonable to think that the woman told such elaborate lies just to receive free cable and utilities, or to stop someone from breaking up with her.
“If this were a play, we’d have a cast of characters — the (neighbors), her mother, the police, many police officers, the hospital staff, the medics,” Williams said. “The defendant wants you to believe that this elaborate assault scenario was contrived so that they wouldn’t break up and so she could have free cable. Again, you have to believe that she’s the greatest actress I believe this courtroom has seen.”
The jurors — three men and nine women — began deliberating at about 11:20 a.m. and continued until about 4:30 p.m. without reaching a verdict. Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.