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ODOR IN THE COURT

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"You can't bring something like that up on the day of trial like he did," the judge says. "He submits something that came off a machine hours before his opening statement, with no supporting facts. I'll tell you something. If the priors had been down the same path and tended to prove motive or intent, and the prosecutor had submitted a timely motion, he probably would have had a shot."

But not in this case.

Reginald Cooke's game plan became clear as soon as he began his opening statement.

"[Kim] does what other teenagers do," he told the jury. "She has a job, she goes to a mall. [Kim] also has sex. . . . Xavier could tell that [Kim] thought he was cute. The evidence is going to show that she thought he looked a little bit like Kevin Johnson. The evidence will also show that [Kim] happens to like black men. . . . They are doing what a lot of teenagers do. Things can get a little hot. They were cuddling. They were kissing. One thing led to another. And, ladies and gentlemen, they had sex."

In other words, Kim Bradley had been a willing partner.
Kim was the first witness. She says she was very nervous, and didn't know if she could go through with her testimony. Instead, Kim dealt with her anguish by retreating into herself and appearing distant, almost lifeless, to the jury.

She described the first, painful act of sexual intercourse.
"I started screaming no, and I tried to push him off. And then, when it seemed like he was telling me to be quiet, I started getting really scared. I thought that if I resisted him, he might assault me or hit me. So I thought, 'Well, maybe I better be quiet until he's finished.' I did continue to say no."

After being raped a second time, Kim said: "I remember telling myself, 'Be quiet,' and I looked at him to see if maybe he'd let me go or not. And I felt like I was so stupid for going there and letting that happen. And then I felt like a doll. You know, just an empty-headed doll. I was really hurting and so uncomfortable."

Later, at Metrocenter, Kim continued, she met her friend Sharon, and told her what had happened.

Sitting at the prosecutor's table, detective Jan Whitson immediately realized that she and the prosecutor had missed the boat on Sharon Singer. Whitson knew she'd erred in July by not asking Kim whom she'd told and what she'd said.

Kim summed up her feelings in a poignant moment:
"I was real disappointed that Xavier didn't show any respect for me when I said I didn't want to have sex, wasn't ready," she said. "I thought he was a different kind of person. He stole my virginity from me. And I felt so disappointed, because that was a goal of my life. I wanted to be a virgin when I got married."

But there were problems with Kim's testimony. If Beatty had done his homework, he might have known to keep his questions to the girl as simple as possible. But many of his complex queries--filtered through an interpreter--seemed to confuse Kim. She seemed unsure of many of her answers.

Reginald Cooke had a daunting task in his cross-examination of Kim. He couldn't come down too hard on a young deaf girl, but he had to show the jury that this case was about consent, not coercion.

Cooke focused on contradictions between Kim's police interviews and her trial testimony. Kim testified there had been blood in her vagina after Skillman finished with her. But she hadn't told the police that, Cooke pointed out.

"I think I did," the rattled teen said. But she hadn't.
"You wrote a note to [Xavier] saying, 'You took my virginity, but that's okay,'" Cooke continued.

"I can't remember," Kim replied. Actually, the police had found no such note during their search of Skillman's home, and Cooke didn't produce one. But without Kim's direct disavowal, Cooke had planted a seed of doubt with the jury.

Cooke also made points when he asked Kim what she'd told police the day after the incident. During an initial, untaped interview, she apparently told detectives she "ran out" of Skillman's house.

Kim testified that she didn't recall saying that, and that it wasn't true.
To some jurors, this was a moment in the trial when the words "reasonable doubt" first popped into their heads.

But if John Beatty had spoken with any experts on deaf issues, he would have learned a possibly pivotal fact. The sign for "run" is very similar to the sign for "walk." It's quite possible, a certified interpreter tells New Times, that the police interpreter misread the girl's gesture.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin