Abuse case jurors to be quizzed


Jurors in the trial of a 30-year-old Northeast High School teacher will be asked to answer the same comprehensive list of questions on sexual child abuse and the schools that jurors in the Laurie S. Cook case were asked, an Anne Arundel Circuit HTC Court judge ruled yesterday.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner agreed to the request by the lawyer for Charles A. Yocum that prospective jurors be required to complete the survey, with roughly 70 questions, just before trial next month.

Mr. Yocum is charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old student during the 1988-89 school year. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 8 and run two days.

The list will be distributed to a pool of 50 prospective jurors Feb. 4. They will be asked such questions as whether they have been the victims of a sexual assault, if they have relatives who are teachers or if they would believe an adult over a child.

Terrence M. Nolan, Mr. Yocum's attorney, acknowledged yesterday that many of the questions are identical to those used by M. Cristina Gutierrez, the attorney for Ms. Cook, a Northeast teacher who was acquitted Dec. 10 of sexual child abuse charges by a Circuit Court jury.

Both teachers were charged after Ronald Walter Price, a former Northeast social studies teacher, was indicted in April for sexually abusing three students.

Mr. Price's case attracted national attention after he went on national television to admit that he had sex with several of his students during his 25-year teaching career.

Mr. Nolan, who sat in for much of the Cook trial, said he hopes to use the same strategy as Ms. Gutierrez -- carefully pick a jury after gathering as much information about them as possible.

"I think the defense was quite satisfied with the jury selected in the Cook case," Mr. Nolan said.

Under rules specified by Judge Lerner yesterday, the questionnaire is to be distributed and reviewed by the attorneys Feb. 1. It will then be distributed to the prospective jurors.

Judge Lerner denied a motion by Mr. Nolan yesterday to require prosecutors to turn over the victim's school records, to see if she had ever been a disciplinary problem or lied to school officials.

Mr. Nolan said that he heard the victim had lied to a teacher about an incident involving a stolen purse while she was a student at George Fox Middle School.

But Judge Lerner, who reviewed school records at Mr. Nolan's request, told the attorneys yesterday he found nothing in them about any theft incident and nothing that would help the defense's case.

"I think at this point, the defense is grasping at straws," said Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris.

Ms. Ferris agreed yesterday to dismiss an assault-and-battery charge against Mr. Yocum, after Mr. Nolan argued that the one-year statute of limitations had expired by the time his client was charged in August.

The assault charge was one of the three criminal charges facing Mr. Yocum.

He still faces charges of sexual child abuse and committing unnatural and perverted sex practices for acts allegedly committed with the 16-year-old student.

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