PATERSON, N.J. – After enduring weeks of often graphic testimony, jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the first trial of a New Jersey father accused of raping five of his daughters.
The panel failed to reach a verdict in two hours of consideration and is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
The jury is considering eight counts against the man, who faces five separate sexual assault trials — one for each daughter he is accused of victimizing. Three of his daughters are believed to have given birth to a total of six of his children.
Through three weeks, jurors heard startling testimony about the man allegedly raping and beating the daughter at the center of the first trial, who testified that she bore him a child when she was 15.
The Associated Press doesn't identify victims of sexual crimes and is not reporting the names of the man or his former wife to protect the identities of their children, now over 18.
The jury got the case Tuesday afternoon, and deliberated for about two hours before concluding for the day. Shortly before leaving, they sent the judge a note asking for excerpts from the daughter's testimony that seemed to indicate they were trying to determine what age she had been when various alleged incidents took place.
The daughter's age — she is now 24 — was a central issue in the trial, as she did not obtain a birth certificate until later in life. She testified, as did the man's former wife, that the man had insisted his children be born at home so they wouldn't be documented.
The defense argued that, as a result, no one could say with certainty what the daughter's real age is, a move that prosecutors criticized as an attempt to cast doubt in the jury's mind as to whether the daughter's age at the time of the alleged assaults actually fell within the statutes he's charged under.
The daughter, who prosecutors say obtained a court-ordered birth certificate a few years ago in order to enroll at Fordham University, testified that her father started beating her at age 3, escalated to sexual touching by age 8, regular intercourse by 12, and a resultant pregnancy shortly after she began menstruation at age 14.
Forensics experts testified earlier in the trial that DNA profiles showed the defendant was likely the father of his own grandchild.
The man's former wife and daughter also testified that he spoke of being a prophet who believed in keeping his bloodlines pure. They said he never let the children see doctors, kept them home-schooled and forced the family to adhere to strict vegetarian diets.
The man, who took the stand in his own defense, said his wife and daughter had been brainwashed by a former family spiritual adviser who was trying to steal the man's business ventures. He said all choices as to how the children were raised had been jointly made with his wife, in the interest of holistic child rearing.
Having been ruled competent to stand trial earlier this year, the man faces a total of 27 charges in all the cases, including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, lewdness, child endangerment, aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact.
The first trial began Sept. 28 in state Superior Court in Paterson, about 15 miles west of Manhattan, where the family lived for several years.