Jury didn't hear about history of accuser and her family

Staff WriterSeptember 5, 2011 

A day before the trial of David Yearwood, prosecutor Tracey Cline said in a hearing that a therapist treating the girl who accused Yearwood of rape was aware of unusual circumstances in her past.

Records from a Duke University child protective team say the girl was the victim of "highly suspected sexual abuse, severe traumatization, and confirmed sexual exploitation" by her father.

Testimony indicated this occurred when she was between 5 and 8.

There were other sexual allegations within the family, including that the girl's older sister had been abused and that the sister described her mother as the victim of rape by her ex-husband.

Included were allegations that the younger girl was exposed to pornography and had overheard her sister being attacked.

The therapist, Betty Phillips, told the judge during a break in the trial - outside the jury's presence - that she was not aware of the girl's history, contradicting what Cline had said earlier.

Phillips then was allowed to testify. She said that she believed the child's behavior was consistent only with the alleged assault by Yearwood.

The jury did not hear any questions about the past that were sexual in nature. The trial judge, James C. Spencer Jr., said it wasn't relevant.

Yearwood appealed that decision. The state Court of Appeals upheld Spencer's ruling.

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