Brownwood physician Donald Pope’s trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child ended in a mistrial Friday morning after a Tarrant County jury could not reach a verdict after three days of deliberations.
“Hung jury,” defense attorney Kirby Roberts of Brownwood confirmed, declining to comment on the trial.
Visiting Judge Jerry Woodlock, who presided over Pope’s trial in Criminal District Court 4, declared the mistrial after jurors could not overcome an 11-1 deadlock, prosecutor Bill Vassar said. He said he was prohibited from commenting on whether it was 11-1 for acquittal or conviction.
“My heart goes out to the family,” Vassar said by phone. “the victim should be proud that she came to court and faced the defendant and his entourage and told the jury about the molestation she went through.
“The case is still pending and Dr. Pope can either accept responsibility for his actions or if he wants to fight it, the DA’s office will give him another trial. The DA’s office and the family have absolutely no intention of dropping this case.”
The case against Pope, a family practice physician, stemmed from an accusation that he assaulted an 8-year-old girl in an Arlington hotel room in 2000, Arlington police said earlier.
The girl was the daughter of one of Pope’s employees, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The girl, who is now 16, said she, Pope and his daughter, also 8 at the time, stayed in a hotel for two days while visiting Six Flags, Wet ‘N Wild, a Texas Rangers game and other tourist attractions, the newspaper reported.
Pope’s daughter, also 16 now, testified that her father slept in one bed and she and the other girl slept in the other bed during their trip to Arlington.
But Pope’s accuser said she awoke in the middle of the night to find that Pope was molesting her, and she rolled off the bed and got into the other bed, the newspaper reported.
The girl said she didn’t tell anyone about the sex abuse at the time because she was afraid her mother would be fired and she “didn’t want to go through all of this,” the Star-Telegram reported. The girl told a church camp counselor about the abuse when she was 14, according to the newspaper.
But Pope’s attorneys, Mark Daniel and Roberts, called several witnesses who testified that the girl didn’t behave like an abuse victim, the Star-Telegram reported. The witnesses, most of them Pope’s employees, testified that the girl spoke highly of the trip and wanted to take another trip with Pope and his daughter, according to the newspaper.
She also continued to hang around Pope’s office, see him as a patient, hug him and give him her school photos after the trip, the newspaper reported.
Shortly before her accusation, the girl asked someone if she thought the doctor might let her work in his office that summer, the newspaper reported.
In closing arguments, prosecutors Alana Minton and Vassar questioned why the girl would make up the abuse allegation, the newspaper reported. They referred to testimony from a counselor who said the girl was believable and said not all child abuse victims react the same way to abuse, according to the newspaper.
Vassar, speaking by phone, said there was no physical evidence in the trial, but said that’s true of more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases. Many children wait a few years to tell about the abuse, Vassar said.
Pope faces a similar accusation in Brown County, where a grand jury indicted him in March on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a different child.