Doctor guilty of waterboarding child

Last updated 13:59 14/02/2014
Melvin Morse
GUILTY DOCTOR: Melvin Morse awaits sentence after being found guilty of waterboarding his partner's daughter.

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A pediatrician known for his research on paranormal science and near-death experiences with children has been convicted of waterboarding the daughter of his longtime companion.

The jury deliberated for about six hours today before returning its verdict against Melvin Morse, 60, who was found guilty of holding the girl's head under a running tap.

Morse was charged with three offences - two for alleged waterboarding and one for alleged suffocation by hand.

He was convicted of one offence - waterboarding in the bathtub - and five misdemeanours. Jurors reduced the second waterboarding charge to a misdemeanour and acquitted Morse of the suffocation charge.

Morse showed no reaction as the verdict was read. He was ordered to surrender his passport and will remain out on bail until his sentencing, set for April 11.

Morse faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, but a lesser punishment was likely under state sentencing guidelines.

Each misdemeanour carried a maximum of one year in prison, but typically resulted in probation.

The felony reckless endangerment conviction for waterboarding carried a maximum of five years in prison, but a presumptive sentence of 15 months.

Prosecutor Melanie Withers said she was ''very gratified'' by the verdict, and that she was on her way to speak with the victim, now 12-years-old.

Morse declined to comment and referred questions to his lawyers.

''He maintains his innocence to this day,'' said attorney John Brady.

Morse's lead defence lawyer, Joseph Hurley, said he planned to appeal.

The girl and her mother, Pauline Morse, testified that Melvin Morse used waterboarding as a threat or a form of punishment.

Waterboarding has been used in the past by US interrogators on terror suspects to simulate drowning. Many critics call it torture.

Defence lawyers argued that ''waterboarding'' was a term jokingly used to describe hair washing the girl did not like.

But Withers portrayed Melvin Morse as a brutal and domineering ''lord and master'' of his household, abusing the girl for years while her mother acquiesced in silence.

Pauline Morse, 41, said she chose to ignore the abuse and was afraid of ''undermining'' Melvin Morse.

She also testified that she did not have a close relationship with the girl for the several years that encompassed the waterboarding, and that she did not pay her much attention.

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Pauline Morse pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanour endangerment charges and testified against Melvin Morse.

- AP

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