And the motherfucker was a pediatrician, too. The AP, via the NY Daily News:
A Delaware jury convicted a pediatrician Thursday of waterboarding his companion’s daughter by holding the child’s head under a faucet.
The jury deliberated for about six hours before returning its verdict against Melvin Morse, 60.
Morse was charged with three felonies — two for alleged waterboarding and one for alleged suffocation by hand. He was convicted of one felony — waterboarding in the bathtub — and five misdemeanors. Jurors reduced the second waterboarding charge to a misdemeanor and acquitted Morse of the suffocation charge.
Morse did not show any immediate reaction after the verdict. He was ordered to surrender his passport, but will remain out on bail until his sentencing hearing, set for April 11.
Morse faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, but a lesser sentence is likely. Under state sentencing guidelines, each misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year in prison, and often probation, while a felony charge typically carries 15 months.
Prosecutor Melanie Withers said she was “very gratified” by the verdict and that she was on her way to speak with the victim. Morse referred questions to his lead defense attorney, Joseph Hurley, who said he planned to appeal.
Hurley criticized a decision by the judge to allow jurors to see video interviews that the victim and her sister gave to authorities in August 2012. He said the unsworn statements improperly prejudiced the jury.
During the trial, defense attorneys argued that “waterboarding” was a term jokingly used to describe hair washing that the girl did not like.
Morse was charged with endangerment and assault after the girl ran away in July 2012 and told authorities of waterboarding and other abuse.
Morse, whose medical license was suspended after his arrest, has written several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine. Morse denied police claims that he may have been experimenting on the girl.
The girl’s mother, Pauline Morse, 41, pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor endangerment charges and testified against Melvin Morse. Pauline Morse was not in the courtroom Thursday.
Pauline Morse and her daughter, now 12, testified that Melvin Morse used waterboarding as a threat or a form of punishment. Waterboarding as used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terror suspects simulates drowning. Many critics call it torture.
According to testimony, the allegations of waterboarding surfaced after the girl ran away. The girl went to a classmate’s home the morning after Morse grabbed her by the ankle and dragged her across a gravel driveway into the home, where she was spanked and warned of worse punishment the next day. When investigators questioned the girl, then 11, she told them about what she called waterboarding.
Prosecutors argued that in addition to being waterboarded, Morse subjected the girl to other abuse, including being forced to stand with arms outstretched for hours at a time; being confined to her room, where she had to use her toy box or closet as a toilet; and being deprived of food or force fed until she vomited.
Withers portrayed Melvin Morse as a brutal and domineering “lord and master” of his household, abusing the girl for years while her mother acquiesced in silence. Pauline Morse said she chose to ignore the abuse, saying she was afraid of “undermining” Melvin Morse. She also testified that she did not have a close relationship with the girl for several years that encompassed the waterboarding, and that she did not pay her much attention.
The case in Sussex County Superior Court revolved around two completely different accounts of family life: the girl described constant criticism and punishment at the hands of her stepfather, while Morse painted himself as a caring and attentive parent.
After testimony concluded, defense attorney Kevin Tray began a spirited closing argument aimed at discrediting the testimony of the 12-year-old victim. Tray said the girl had been interviewed about the waterboarding incidents five times, but it was only one day before trial that she said her stepfather had said “Die. Die.”
About 10 minutes into his argument, Tray suddenly fell ill and a recess was called. While bailiffs attended to Tray, Melvin whispered to unidentified spectators: “He’s been working 18-hour days.”
Picking up for Tray, defense attorney Joseph Hurley boiled the prosecution’s case down to the credibility of two witnesses: Pauline and the 12-year-old victim, dismissing the testimony of the victim’s 7-year-old half sister.
Hurley said the younger child is not a supporting witness at all, adding, “She couldn’t even identify her father,” whom she failed to recognize in the courtroom. It has been about 18 months since she saw her father, and his appearance has changed markedly.
Hurley was even more dismissive of Pauline. “We know she has a bad memory,” he said, noting Pauline had forgotten she was still married to a man in Washington State when she married Morse, and she had to dissolve her Delaware marriage because of it. “She’s a huge black hole of credibility,” he summarized.
According to the state, home life for Morse’s stepdaughter was “Auschwitz on steroids,” Hurley said, “except for the executions.” He then showed clips of recorded positive comments the girl had made to child service workers about her home life and her father.
“It’s on her credibility that the whole case stands or falls,” he said.
Deputy Attorney General Melanie Withers offered equally dramatic closing arguments for the prosecution.She told the jury that Pauline was not an ideal witness, but she was an important part of what was going on in the Morse household.
“This case is about personalities,” said Withers. “At its heart it was about a family and how they interacted with each other in the privacy of their home. So it was necessary to hear from Pauline.
If we had not heard from Pauline, we would be missing an important part of the story. ”
She said Melvin Morse had two personae, one public and one private one. His public face was that of a concerned parent, taking his step-daughter to therapists and parenting advisers to help her recover from post traumatic stress disorder. Privately, she said, he was a control freak who wanted to completely dominate her.
As a result, he restricted her movement in the house, excessively disciplined her, lectured her for hours on end – recording some – and shamed her with degrading poses and even one which featured her with a sign that said “shame.” Withers showed pictures and clips of the girl when she was obviously distressed, including a video of her during one of her stepfather’s lectures.
Withers said Morse’s voluminous correspondence with the school was designed to control the school’s reaction to statements the girl may have made at school. Morse made sure school officials knew of his expertise in child development, that the girl was seeing outside therapists, and that she had PSTD all to explain away signs of possible statements or signs abuse she could have made about her home life, Withers said.
“Melvin had strong opinions and a forceful personality,” Withers said. “He was lord and master in his home.” That is why the girl spent so much time in her room, Withers said.
She quoted an interview with the 7-year-old in which she said, “I only get in trouble for the big stuff; my sister gets in trouble for the big stuff and the little stuff.”