The D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that Superior Court Judge Carlisle E. Pratt should not have denied a government attempt to introduce as evidence at trial a statement made by Washington artist Gloria Whipple that she was raped during the course of a beating in 1979 on the Mall. Whipple later died of her injuries.
Pratt had ruled Wednesday that Whipple's statement that she had been raped -- a statement made to a U.S. Park policeman who found her after the attack -- possibly had been "fantasized." As a result, government prosecutors were not able to use it as evidence at the trial of two men accused of Whipple's murder, Roy Anderson Leasure and Charles Patterson Perkins.
A three-judge appeals court panel, comprising Judges Catherine B. Kelly, Stanley S. Harris and Julia Cooper Mack, sat in emergency session to resolve the issue that temporarily halted the trial.
The ruling reversing Pratt sent the case back to Superior Court for further proceedings, and means that prosecutors may tell the jury about Whipple's statement to the officer.
Whipple, 51, was attacked shortly after she left an art class at a Smithsonian Institution museum Sept. 17, 1979, and died 18 days later at George Washington University Hospital.
Pratt questioned Whipple's state of mind when she made the statement.
". . . There is a question as to whether or not [rape] happened a few minutes before that time, or whether she sat on the curb for an hour and fantasized," Pratt said. "It would certainly require an extremely naive human being to believe this was not a situation that would be subject to great fantasies."
Defense attorney Russell F. Canan argued before the court that Whipple's remark had been a "hearsay" statement and was not properly admissible. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael W. Farrell contended that the statement had been spontaneous, which would continue an exception to the hearsay rule.
"I'm disappointed in the decision," said G. Allen Dale, one of the defense lawyers. "It hurts in that a statement probably will be admitted . . . and we will never have the opportunity to explore the statement to determine if she meant what the jury will hear."
Meanwhile, defense attorneys yesterday requested that Pratt ask jurors whether they had been influenced by press accounts of the case. Pratt is expected to rule on that request Monday, when the trial resumes.