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Nelson Case Goes to Jury

Dudley, Balash Give Closing Statements on Alleged Sexual Assaults


Jurors were released today and told to deliberate the case of Bruce Nelson, the man accused of sexually assaulting two women he helped care for during his employment at Solutions Rehabilitation Center. Today in court, prosecutor Joyce Dudley and defense attorney Steve Balash made their closing arguments before a packed courtroom that included the two alleged victims - a 22-year-old woman and a 44-year-old woman, both of whom were at Solutions being treated for brain injuries - and these two women’s parents.

Dudley urged the jury to look at the hard evidence in the case including brain scans, brain injuries, IQ tests, memory tests, and medical doctor’s tests. But Dudley also encouraged the jury to look at the soft evidence in the case, such as one of alleged victim’s apparent loss of ability to control her smile. Dudley accused Nelson of having lied and having continually changed his story. She recommended the jury take into account Nelson’s lying when deciding his verdict.

In Nelson’s defense, Balash claimed that there were no phone records in the case proving that Nelson had contacted the women in the manner that previous witness’s testimony had claimed. Balash also reminded the jury that, at one point in her account of the alleged sexual encounter, one of the women called it consensual. Balash told the jury that Nelson had not made any threats to the victims or used force. And he emphasized the fact that one of the women alleging that these assaults occurred suffers from an inability to control her facial expression, thus making it easy for Nelson to think she was consenting. (In earlier testimony, the other alleged victim claimed she suffered from a lack of desire to smile following her brain injury. This was a fact that Dudley repeated in her closing argument.)

The relationship between Nelson and the two women had been further explored in court the previous day, when the mother of one of the alleged victims took the stand and testified that Nelson had twice been to her house. On one such occasion, Nelson had escorted the daughter to a park, the mother explained, before going on to describe her daughter as “oblivious” in her dealings with men and “vulnerable.” When Dudley asked the mother why she objected to Nelson visiting their home, the mother responded, “Bruce would call a lot and [my daughter] didn’t want to talk to him.”

Some of Wednesday’s testimony regarded Nelson’s attire during his employment at the Braille Institute, where he had worked as a driver for four years. Balash asked Mary Lee Emard, a former teacher at the institute, what kind of pants Nelson wore to work. Emard answered that Nelson wore sweatpants with an elastic waistband and that she had seen him every morning. A second witness - another Braille Institute employee, Philis Castagna - was also called to the stand. She testified that she’d seen Nelson wearing long basketball shorts on more than one occasion. Finally, on Wednesday, Dudley asked Castagna if she knew whether Nelson worked at Solutions at night. Castagna replied “yes,” then said she was unaware whether Nelson would have changed his clothes from the night before. Although not specifically stated during Wednesday’s testimony, one possible explanation for this discussion could be Balash’s questioning of one of the alleged victim’s testimony from early in the trial, during which she made reference to the unzipping of Nelson’s pants in reference to one of the sexual encounters.

Julie Bifano is an Independent intern.

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