Cpl. Lindsey Scott went before a second court-martial on rape and attempted murder charges yesterday amid renewed allegations that high-ranking Marine Corps officers are improperly trying to influence the racially charged case.
The 32-year-old Scott, who is black, sat impassively through seven hours of jury screening and opening arguments in the same courtroom at the Quantico Marine Corps Base where he was first tried and convicted in the 1983 attack on a young white woman. The conviction was overturned last summer.
Before the day was half out, some of the same questions about "command pressure" that dogged the first proceeding had been raised. The Marines have repeatedly denied any suggestion of meddling with the legal process.
First, the now-retired military magistrate who in 1983 ordered Scott released from confinement for lack of evidence against him appeared at the base. He declared to reporters that "justice in the military is at the whim of the commanding officer."
The magistrate, Lt. Col. R.T. Harry, said in a prepared statement: "It is time to stop this circus, this persecution, this racial attack on Lindsey Scott." Harry said he ried without success to deliver the statement to Lt. Gen. Frank I. Petersen, Quantico's commanding officer.
Harry has said he was "fired" by the Marines the day after he ordered Scott released. The Marines, who reinstated the charges against Scott, have said Harry had applied for retirement previously and that the timing of his notice was coincidental.
In a second incident yesterday, one prospective juror, Col. Donald J. Robinson II, said he had "inferred" from a brief conversation with the chief legal officer at the Quantico base several months ago that the officer thinks that Scott is guilty.
One of Scott's civilian attorneys, Gary P. Myers, told reporters he thinks that it is "outrageous" that the legal officer, Col. James P. McHenry, had included Robinson's name on a list of possible jurors.
In a prepared response, McHenry acknowledged that he had discussed his "feelings about sufficient evidence" with Robinson but that Robinson was included on the juror list because "he met all the requirements established by law and the commanding general."
After a challenge by Scott's attorney, the judge removed Robinson from the jury, which is called members of the court in a military proceeding.
Marine prosecutors removed from the jury one of the two black officers, arguing that he might not be objective because his wife is a military defense lawyer.
The final jury is composed of one black and six whites. Five jurors are men, two are women and all are Marine officers.
Under the rules of military justice, Scott could be convicted by a vote of five of the seven.
As civil rights activists from Northern Virginia and Louisville, Scott's home town, monitored the court-martial by closed-circuit television, government and defense lawyers outlined the case in opening remarks.
Capt. Steve Hinkle, one of the Marine prosecutors, told the court that a 22-year-old newlywed, whose husband worked with Scott as an investigator, was called on the evening of April 20, 1983, by a man who identified himself as an investigator, told her that her husband had been involved in an accident, and offered to drive her to a hospital.
At the time, Scott and the woman lived in the same apartment complex, not far from the base.
Hinkle said the woman, who is expected to appear at the court-martial this week, will testify that instead of driving her to the hospital, the man picked her up; drove her to a remote, wooded spot; forced her to commit sodomy; raped her; choked her; slashed her throat; laughed and left her for dead.
Scott has repeatedly denied the charges against him.
Myers, Scott's attorney, said the woman's subsequent identification of Scott was shaky at best and influenced by military investigators under "severe pressure to get a positive ID." Although the woman apparently could describe her assailant's lips, she never said anything about Scott's prominent gold front tooth.
Also, Myers dwelled on the lack of physical evidence to tie Scott to the crime. The only Negroid hair found on the woman, he said, did not match Scott's.
He emphasized that the failure of Scott's attorney to represent him competently at the first court-martial had forever tainted the case, and he warned that the Marine prosecutors would take advantage of that record to cast doubt on new evidence that tends to support Scott's alibi that he was shopping for a birthday present for his wife several miles from the Quantico base at the time the attack was taking place.
Prosecutor Hinkle said that when Prince William County police found Scott's car, they said it had been wiped clean on the passenger side, apparently to eliminate any trace of the crime. But Scott's attorneys argue that Scott would not have had time to clean out the car and that in any event photos do not show smear marks noted by the police.
As for the woman's identification of Scott, Myers said, "We do not view her as a fraud, as a liar, as a harlot or as a cheat." Rather, he said, the woman, "with little or no experience with members of the black race," did not get a good look at the man who was driving her in the darkness.