Five years ago, the wife of Marine Cpl. Lindsey Scott broke into sobs minutes after taking the witness stand at her husband's court-martial, and was led from the courtroom screaming, "Just leave my husband alone; he did not do it!"
Yesterday, a composed, if slightly anxious Lolita J. Scott took the witness stand again, called her husband a "playful, loving" man who is "very gung-ho, very truthful, very honest," and blew him a kiss on the way out the door. Scott, flanked by his three attorneys, remained expressionless at the defense table.
In her testimony yesterday, Lolita Scott provided the first explanation of why the front passenger seat of her husband's car, where prosecutors say he raped and sodomized a woman, might have appeared to have been wiped down when investigators found it the day after the 1983 attack at Quantico Marine Corps Base.
Her testimony came as Scott's father and brother and civil rights activists contended that the court-martial at Quantico -- Scott's second since 1983 -- is becoming a "kangaroo court." They cited instances early this week in which the military judge, Lt. Col. Eligah D. Clark, ruled inadmissible the testimony of two defense witnesses and barred a videotape that purported to prove that Scott could not have attacked the woman at Quantico. Scott is black; the woman is white.
"It's leaning the same way it did in the first trial," said James Scott Sr., the defendant's father. He said his son is "getting a little worried, too."
Scott was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years at hard labor in the proceeding in October 1983, but the verdict was thrown out last summer when the nation's highest military appeals court found that Scott's former civilian attorney had failed to prepare a competent defense.
The Marine Corps would not comment on the elder Scott's comments yesterday. One of Scott's current attorneys, Gary R. Myers, dismissed the suggestion that the present trial is tainted, saying, "Judge Clark has run a completely fair trial."
Nonetheless, the criticism of the court-martial, which enters its 14th day today, seems to reflect the frustration and growing anxiety of Scott's backers.
In addition to the setbacks dealt by the judge this week, Scott's defense seemed to sputter at times yesterday as three of its witnesses contradicted their own testimony from the first trial; one surprised Scott's lawyers by supporting the prosecution's case, and the credibility of a fifth was called into question when prosecutors disclosed that he filed a false travel reimbursement form in 1982.
Lolita Scott's testimony helped her husband when she testified that rainwater and moisture from puddles seeped occasionally into their car through holes in the floorboard and a defective passenger side door. It was common, she said, for the carpet on the front passenger side to be wet.
In previous testimony, Navy investigators and Prince William County police have said they found the passenger side of Scott's car wet and smeared, as if it had been wiped down to erase physical evidence such as hairs and fibers. No physical evidence has been found to link Scott, or anyone else, directly to the crime.
The woman, who was married to a military policeman who worked with Scott, has identified Scott as her assailant and testified that the rape and sodomy occurred in the front seat of his car. Scott has denied he wiped down the car.
Lolita Scott also testified that her husband had a green plastic mop bucket with him on April 20, 1983, the day of the attack -- not a silver-colored chili pot of the sort the woman described having seen in the back seat of her assailant's car.
However, Lolita Scott at one point contradicted her testimony from the first court-martial, insisting yesterday that investigators had seized her chili pot from her apartment without asking permission to take it. In the first proceeding, she said the agents asked if they could have it.
Another witness, former Marine policeman Sgt. William M. Bryant Jr. of Fredericksburg, Va., testified yesterday that he remembered a military police report from the night of the crime that described the assailant's vehicle as brown -- not tan or yellow as the woman later described it. Scott's car is tannish gold.
Prosecutors pointed out that in the 1983 trial, Bryant testified that the report mentioned the suspect was driving either a brown or tan car. He said yesterday he had no memory of saying that. The report has never been found.
Another witness yesterday, Marine Staff Sgt. Sammy Lee, testified that when the woman was brought before a lineup of six men, including Scott, several days after the attack, he overheard the woman say that she could not identify any of them.
Lee, who at the time worked at the photo lab at Quantico, did not testify at the first court-martial. His testimony seemed to buttress previous witnesses who said the woman equivocated the first few times she was asked to select her assailant from photographs and the lineup, and that she positively identified Scott only at the 1983 court-martial.
Prosecutors, trying to undermine Lee's credibility, produced documents showing that he had filed a false travel reimbursement form in 1982, claiming that he had driven to the West Coast when in fact he flew. Lee contended that the matter was a misunderstanding -- that he intended to drive but could not because of mechanical trouble. There was no disciplinary action resulting from the incident.