The passenger side of Cpl. Lindsey Scott's car had been "wiped clean" by the time authorities examined it after Scott became the chief suspect in the April 1983 rape and attempted murder of a woman on the Quantico Marine Corps base, a civilian police officer testified yesterday.
"It stood out like a sore thumb; it was obvious," Officer Richard J. Leonard of Prince William County police said of the passenger side of Scott's car, where prosecutors contend that the Marine raped his victim and forced her to commit sodomy. The car, a 1976 Buick Skylark, was searched the day after the April 20, 1983, attack.
Leonard's testimony came on the fifth day of the racially charged case in which Scott stands accused -- in a second court-martial -- of rape, sodomy, kidnaping and attempted murder. Scott's original conviction and sentence to 30 years at hard labor were set aside last summer by a military appeals court on grounds that Scott had not received a competent defense.
Scott, 32, is black; the victim, who is now 27 and living in Rochester, N.Y., is white.
The woman, who was married to a military policeman who worked with Scott, testified earlier that she was tricked into accepting a ride from a man who said her husband had been injured and that he would drive her to the hospital.
Leonard's statements yesterday were important to the prosecutors' case because Scott's attorneys and civil rights activists working in his behalf have criticized the Marines for prosecuting Scott when there is no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or hairs, linking him to the crime.
Leonard testified that in his search of Scott's car he found "streak marks" on the windshield and the passenger side of the front seat and that the floor was damp. The car's exterior and the rest of its interior showed no signs of having been cleaned recently, the officer said.
Leonard also said that the front ashtray was clean, but that two ashtrays in the back seat were filled with cigarettes. The victim has testified that she smoked while in her assailant's car, believing that she was being driven to see her husband.
Although no identifiable fingerprints were found on or in the car, Leonard said this is not unusual. Asked why a car might have only one side cleaned, Leonard said it could be the result of an attempt to wipe away evidence or merely a sign that someone was cleaning the car and got called away before finishing the job.
Scott's attorneys, John F. Leino and Gary R. Myers of Alexandria, noting that photos of the car do not show that the passenger side had been wiped, pressed Leonard on why a more sophisticated camera was not used. He responded that such a camera was not available.
Leino and Myers have questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, which was overseen by the Naval Investigative Service. Yesterday they pressed Leonard on why he had not confiscated some materials he said he saw in the car, such as a "caddy" container in the front seat.
Leonard responded that he did not think such items were unusual, nor did he think they would assist a rape victim in identifying an assailant. However, he said he did confiscate a wooden ornament that was hanging from the rear-view mirror. The victim has said she remembers seeing an object hanging from the rear-view mirror in her assailant's car.
Also testifying yesterday was Dr. Ronald L. Schubert, a former emergency room physician at Quantico who examined the woman shortly after the crime.
"She appeared to be extremely brutalized," Schubert said. "She asked me several times, 'Am I going to die, Doctor?' "
Schubert said that when the victim arrived in the emergency room, she was shaking from cold and her hair and clothes were stained with blood. However, he said, once she had been assured that her life was not in immediate danger, she "settled down" and was able to give what Schubert said he considered a reliable account of what had happened to her.
The woman said that after the rape, she was led down a slope into the woods, where her assailant slashed her with a knife and attempted to strangle her. She was taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital for an examination and surgery after Schubert noted the severity of the knife wounds to her neck, he said.
Scott's retrial, already behind schedule, could run as long as another two weeks, attorneys said. Military prosecutors said yesterday they expect to finish presenting their case on Wednesday or Thursday, after which the defense will present its witnesses.