Cpl. Lindsey Scott, the black Marine who became a cause celebre for civil rights groups after his 1983 conviction for the rape, attempted murder, sodomy and kidnaping of a white woman at Quantico Marine Corps base, faces a second court-martial on the charges today.
Scott's conviction was set aside in July by the nation's highest military court, which ruled that his former attorney's failure to prepare a competent alibi defense clouded the original guilty verdict. In October, the Marine Corps announced that it would retry him at Quantico, about 30 miles south of Washington.
This time, Scott has two things going for him that he lacked in the first court-martial: a pair of highly regarded civilian lawyers who have devoted hundreds of hours to his defense, and a witness who is expected to testify that Scott was miles from Quantico on the night of April 20, 1983, when the wife of one of his colleagues was driven to a remote spot at the base, raped, stabbed and left for dead.
Against that testimony, the Marines are certain to produce the victim, now a resident of Rochester, N.Y., who pointed a finger at Scott on the second day of the 1983 court-martial and said, "This is the man right here." In addition, prosecutors likely will present an assortment of circumstantial evidence and the victim's description of the interior of Scott's car, where she contends that the attack took place.
The trial may provide a final chapter to a case that has veered this way and that in a dizzying sequence of hope and heartbreak for Scott, a powerfully built 32-year-old serviceman from Louisville whose Marine Corps record was unblemished before his arrest.
Scott, who was sentenced to 30 years at hard labor, spent 45 months behind bars, mostly at the federal Disciplinary Barracks at "He was convicted last time on evidence that was suspect at best. I'm very leery about the military courts."
-- Curtis O. Porter
Fort Leavenworth, Kan., before he was released last summer after the U.S. Court of Military Appeals ruled that his conviction was tainted.
Scott's supporters and family have portrayed him as innocent. When the Marines charged him in the 1983 attack, he selected his first attorney, Ervan E. Kuhnke Jr. of Dumfries, from the Yellow Pages. (His new attorneys are John F. Leino, of the noted Alexandria criminal defense firm of Howard & Howard, and Gary R. Myers.) Civil rights groups, including local chapters of the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, have accused the Marines of singling out Scott because he is black in their eagerness to make an arrest in the assault on a white victim.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, have painted a picture of Scott as a shrewd, calculating man who used his training as a military investigator to cover up the evidence of his crime.
The Marines have strenuously denied any racial motivation in their handling of the investigation and prosecution. Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, the commanding officer at Quantico who decided to convene the second court-martial, is the highest-ranking black in the Marines.
Civil rights activists, wary of the military justice system, which requires a jury made up entirely of officers, who need not vote unanimously to convict, say they are skeptical about Scott's chances for receiving a fair trial. "He was convicted last time on evidence that was suspect at best," said Curtis O. Porter, president of the NAACP's Prince William County branch. "I'm very leery about the military courts."
Scott has repeatedly denied the charges against him. He has said he spent the evening of the crime shopping for a present for his wife's birthday and browsing at the Zayre department store in Woodbridge, about 10 miles north of the Marine base.
During the court-martial, none of the witnesses who took the stand in Scott's defense provided proof of his alibi. One of the witnesses, former Zayre store detective Cynthia Ausby, testified that she remembered seeing Scott in the store one evening in the spring, but she said she was not certain of the date.
But at an appeal hearing 15 months later, Ausby, now a licensed private investigator, changed her story. After checking store records from the night of the attack -- something that Scott's original civilian attorney had not asked her to do before she took the witness stand -- she declared: "I can state emphatically that Lindsey Scott was in that store on the night of April 20, 1983, between the hours of 8:15 and 8:45," when the attack took place.
Military prosecutors acknowledged that Ausby's testimony damaged their case, and Ausby's credibility is expected to be a crucial issue in the court-martial that begins today.
Scott became a suspect almost immediately after the victim, then the 23-year-old wife of a military policeman who worked with Scott, was found bleeding and dazed.
Physical evidence recovered from the victim -- samples of hair, blood and semen -- was either inconclusive or failed to match Scott's. The knife used in the attack was never found; Scott has acknowledged that he borrowed a knife from his landlord the day of the attack, but he maintains that he threw it away inadvertently.
The victim told investigators that she had been lured from her apartment by a man who telephoned her, identified himself as a member of her husband's unit, said her husband had been in an accident and offered to take her to the hospital.
Instead of going to the hospital, the man drove her to an isolated area of the base where he raped her, then dragged her into the woods, choked her and stabbed her in the neck, according to her testimony.
In the initial stages of the investigation, the victim twice identified Scott as her assailant, first from a group of photographs and then from a lineup, but each time she equivocated, saying that other men in the groups resembled him. Once she picked Scott because, she said, "he scares me the most." She did not seem certain of the identification until she rose out of the witness chair at the court-martial, stood over Scott, pointed at him and made her accusation.
LINDSEY SCOTT CASE
APRIL 20, 1983: Wife of military policeman is found dazed and bleeding on Quantico Marine Base. She says she was raped, choked and stabbed. Military investigators focus on Lindsey Scott.
OCT. 11, 1983: Scott is convicted of rape, sodomy, kidnaping and attempted murder, sentenced to 30 years at hard labor.
JAN. 31, 1985: A former Zayre store detective testifies in an appeal hearing that Scott was 10 miles from Quantico when attack occurred.
JAN. 22, 1986: A U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Military Review panel upholds Scott's conviction despite "misgivings" about the performance of his attorney.
JULY 6, 1987: U.S. Court of Military Appeals overturns Scott's conviction, citing failure of his civilian lawyer to prepare competent alibi defense. Scott is subsequently released and returns to Quantico in August.
OCT. 22, 1987: Marine Corps decides to convene second court-martial of Scott. Trial set for Jan. 25, 1988.