A Carroll jury was to resume deliberations this morning in the case of a county man who is accused of molesting 10 neighborhood children -- two of them his own -- during the past five years.
The panel of seven men and five women is considering 35 counts, many of them felonies, that could result in a sentence of more than 500 years if guilty verdicts are returned on all of them. The jury deliberated two hours yesterday.
The man originally was charged with molesting a dozen children, many of them the sons and daughters of his friends. After prosecutors rested their case yesterday morning, Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. dropped charges involving two children.
Many of the young accusers -- and their parents, friends and relatives -- were in the courtroom last night before Judge Beck summoned the jury to dismiss it for the night. Before the panel was called in, the judge asked prosecutors to remove the children from the courtroom.
Jurors' questions to the judge indicate that the panelists are going over evidence in detail. They asked the judge to explain the legal phrase, "to wit" -- which he did, by sending back a dictionary definition that said it means "that is to say." They also asked to hear the testimony of one of the accusers again, which they were to do this morning.
Stephen R. Tully, the defendant's attorney, declined to comment yesterday. His client did not take the stand in his own defense nor did the defense present any evidence during the 2 1/2 -day trial. Prosecutors presented testimony from 11 children, many of whom told the jurors they were molested by the man, sometimes while his children watched.
One boy, now 9, testified Tuesday that he never told anyone about the abuse because the man told him: "If you tell anyone, I'll kill your mother."
Prosecutors also presented testimony from doctors and investigators. They played a taped statement the man gave to police officers, in which he suggested that the children "had a problem" and some of them "pursued" him.
"In that neighborhood, there was a silent predator," said Assistant State's Attorney Christy McFaul, one of the two prosecutors in the case. "Child abuse is not someone else's problem. It's here, it's real, it's now and it happens in Carroll County."
Mr. Tully, who told jurors at the beginning of the trial Monday that the case would be a hard one to defend, invoked memories of the Salem witch trials in trying to cast doubt on the prosecution's case.
He also told the panel that his client was being prosecuted unfairly, based on an earlier ruling by Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold that allowed prosecutors to present evidence involving all of the man's accusers at one trial.
"We have a doctrine in Maryland, a rule of law in Maryland, that you can only deliberate over one factual pattern at a time. It's called severance," Mr. Tully said in closing arguments.
"In Maryland, if one person is charged with more than one crime, they have to be severed. Judge Arnold ruled that these charges had to be separated," he began to say, but Judge Beck ordered him to discontinue discussing the issue.
In Judge Arnold's ruling last week, he said that, as a matter of law, he was required to break the case into separate trials, but, because the man failed to ask for severance in time, he was not able to separate the cases.
Mr. Tully said that issue will form the basis of the man's appeal if he is convicted.
The defendant, whose name is being withheld to protect the privacy of his children, was arrested last year. Carroll child abuse investigators have claimed that he is one of the worst pedophiles in recent county history.