Opening Arguments, Witnesses Called in Morse Trial - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Opening Arguments, Witnesses Called in Morse Trial

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GEORGETOWN, Del. - Melvin Morse, the former Milton pediatrician, facing charges of endangering a child had his second day in court Tuesday. His daughter has accused him of water-boarding her on multiple occasions, according to the prosecution.

At the trial, attorneys from both sides made opening arguments, painting two very different stories. The prosecution called five witnesses, submitting over 20 exhibits of evidence. 

The prosecution told a graphic story, beginning on July 12, 2012. On this date, the prosecutor said the family went to Grotto's pizza. There the young girl leaned against the glass, something which made Morse upset, according to the attorney. 

The attorney continued to explain the events that followed. She said the young girl was forced to stay in the car for approximately five hours as a punishment. Then at around 10 p.m., the girl was "dragged" out of the car by her father across the gravel driveway. In her bedroom, the prosecutor said Morse then spanked his daughter.

Afterwards, the attorney told the jury of 12 women and 4 men that Morse issued a threat to the young girl, saying "tomorrow you'll be punished more than ever before." According to the prosecutor's account, the 11-year old decided to run away the next morning. 

In her opening statement, she further described the family life, calling it "bizarre, hostile, and completely controlling." She said the young girl had even been waterboarded on many occasions. Throughout the state's opening statement, Morse consistently shook his head in denial.

Morse has written various books on near-death experiences in children, including "Closer to the Light", "Transformed by the Light," "Where God Lives," and "Parting Visions." His work on this subject, got him invited as an expert guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

When the state was finished with their opening statement, the defense told a very different story. Morse's attorney, Joseph Hurley, told the jury that they should be fair. 

"You're not doing a good job if you have a pre-judgement without the evidence," he said.

He told the jury that this case is all about credibility, suggesting that Morse's wife Pauline was lying about the waterboarding accusation. At one point he said "her job is to dance to the song," suggesting that the woman was lying to benefit herself. 

Hurley also pointed out inconsistencies with the 11-year old's accusations. He spoke about a May 2010 visit where the young girl told the Delaware Family Services that "dad and mom are good people." 

The defense has not started to formulate their case in front of the jury. They will do so when the state is finished presenting their case. 

The first witness called was a neighbor who lived nearby in Harbeson, Delaware. On the morning of July 13, she said Morse's daughter showed up at the door at approximately 8:30a.m. The girl rode the school bus with her daughter and so she invited her inside. The neighbor did not know the girl, and so she called the school bus driver, who came to the Harbeson residence. 

The bus driver, who was the second witness called to the stand said that she knew Morse's daughter for four years. She told the jury that the young girl looked "withdrawn" and "very skinny." 

The neighbor and the bus driver decided to call the police, and at that point Corporal Bryon Haupt responded to the scene. Haupt was also a witness at the trial. He said the girl looked "wet and dirty." He said the odor was strong enough that he opened the windows on the drive to Beebe Healthcare. 

At the hospital, the young girl was treated by a forensic nurse who was also a witness at the trial. She commented on various photographs taken during that visit. She described abrasions on the girls body. She also said that the girl weighed approximately 55.25 pounds at her visit. 

Another witness Trooper James O'Neill said he went to the Morse home, as the girl was taken to the hospital. He was greeted at the door by Morse, and asked him to follow his car to Troop 7 for questioning. Once at the station, Morse was interrogated by Cpl. Haupt. That video was also submitted as evidence.

During the interrogation video, Morse waived his Miranda rights and spoke to the officer. He said he did not spank his daughter. However Morse said his daughter did sit in the car for hours, but insisted that this was her own decision.

At 10:00p.m., Morse said the young girl refused to leave the car, and so he tried to bring her in the house by carrying her. He said his daughter was having a "temper tantrum," and that her kicking made it difficult to carry her into the home without dropping her.

"I have a really good relationship with her," Morse said at one point in the video. 

"I don't hit her or bruise her," he said later in the interview.

The trial is going to continue with more witnesses from the state on Wednesday. Attorneys from the prosecution tell WBOC that they initially expected to call the daughter to the stand on Wednesday. However, Tuesday's questioning was slow, and so she said this may not occur until Thursday or later.

The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, agreed last year to plead guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and to testify against him.

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