GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) — A former pediatrician accused of waterboarding his longtime companion’s daughter by holding the girl’s head under a faucet testified Tuesday he sometimes was insensitive and rough with the girl but denied that he enjoyed humiliating her or causing her pain. (See Related Story)
Melvin Morse’s testimony came as he was cross-examined by prosecutors in his trial on endangerment and assault charges. He could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Much of the early cross-examination focused on what Morse said were attempts by him and the girl’s mother to deal with her misbehavior and the family counseling they went through. Prosecutors were expected to hone in on the alleged waterboarding later Tuesday.
Waterboarding simulates drowning and has been used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terror suspects. Many critics call it torture.
Morse has testified that there were struggles trying to keep the girl’s her clean after she began taking showers instead of baths, and that she also had head lice that required hair washing.
The girl, now 12, and her mother, Pauline Morse, have said Melvin Morse used hair washing as a threat or punishment.
The allegations of waterboarding surfaced after the girl ran away from home in July 2012, the morning after Melvin Morse reportedly grabbed her by the ankle and dragged her across a gravel driveway into the house, where she was spanked and warned of worse punishment the next day.
Pauline Morse, 41, agreed last year to plead guilty to misdemeanor endangerment charges and to testify against Melvin Morse. But defense attorneys pointed out several contradictions and false statements in their testimony and in statements they gave to authorities.
Melvin Morse, 60, has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine.
He has denied police claims that he may have been using waterboarding to experiment on the girl.
But he acknowledged Tuesday that he could have been a better parent, and that some of his actions contradicted his own writings arguing that corporal punishment is ineffective and counterproductive.
Asked about videos he took of the girl while he lectured her about her behavior, Morse said he came across as condescending and berating.
“I don’t think that’s good parenting,” he said. “… I was not being sensitive to her feelings.”
Morse also said he was “ashamed” of photographs of the girl when she was being punished, including being forced to stand with her hands on her head. One photo showed the tearful girl with her fingers in both of her nostrils, which Morse said was an act of defiance after he slapped her for having one finger in her nose. Another shows the girl with her hands on her head and a sign reading “Shame” around her neck.
“I took them typically to show Pauline what was going on,” Morse said, adding, “I’m ashamed.”
Morse, who acknowledged slapping the girl more than once, said some of his actions amounted to a “failure of parenting.”
“I’m not proud of it…. I’m certainly not a perfect person.”
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