Lawyers: McDaniel’s virginity no proof of ‘twisted sexual desire’

jkovac@macon.comJanuary 2, 2014 

mcdaniel_commish

Stephen McDaniel, right, confers with his attorneys, Floyd Buford, left, and Franklin Hogue before a hearing in 2012.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

Five hours or so after his next-door neighbor’s dismembered torso was found in a curbside trash bin at the Georgia Avenue apartments where they lived, Stephen McDaniel’s place was searched by Macon police.

While detectives hunted for clues, McDaniel, then 25, sat on his sofa and talked to district attorney’s investigator James MacDonald.

It was mid-afternoon on June 30, 2011.

A month later, McDaniel would be charged with murder in the slaying of his 27-year-old neighbor and Mercer University law school classmate Lauren Giddings.

But on that late-June day two and a half years ago, investigator MacDonald apparently struck up a conversation with McDaniel. MacDonald asked the recent law school grad if he had a girlfriend.

McDaniel said he didn’t. Then he apparently told MacDonald that he was a Christian and a virgin, and that he intended to remain a virgin until he married.

As innocuous a revelation as it may seem, with McDaniel set to go on trial next month his defense team doesn’t want talk of his virginity being heard by a jury.

That’s because references to McDaniel’s virginity, according to a motion filed by his lawyers this week, may be part of the state’s theory about why he allegedly killed.

McDaniel’s lawyers write that they “anticipate” prosecutors will contend “that McDaniel murdered Lauren Giddings because of some sort of twisted sexual desire for her, perhaps because she was unattainable, or because of his own inexperience in relations with women, either of which then drove him toward a murderous obsession for her, or some such theory.”

In the motion, defense attorneys Floyd Buford and Franklin J. Hogue, argue that “the fact of Mr. McDaniel’s virginity does not prove or disprove any material fact at issue.”

They note such a contention’s “supreme irony” because “such an argument by the State would necessarily trade on the notion that a person’s character is suspect if he has reached 27 years old and has refrained from sexual intercourse because of a religious belief.”

They go on to argue that testimony about McDaniel’s virginity “would create the improper and prejudicial inference that Stephen McDaniel must have committed this murder out of his sexual desperation or some twisted sexual desire fueled in some way, perhaps, by his virginity.”

There is a chance McDaniel’s trial, scheduled to begin jury selection Feb. 3, will be delayed in light of alleged evidence GBI analysts found on McDaniel’s computer.

The findings didn’t come to light until last week, prompting McDaniel’s lawyers to file a motion Tuesday noting, in part, that the recently discovered evidence gives them little time to examine it.

In another motion filed Thursday, the attorneys argued that testimony about two hairs investigators found in the refrigerator of an apartment beneath the one where Giddings lived should be excluded.

The hairs were found stuck to an inside wall of the refrigerator, the motion notes. The man who lived there had recently moved out, and he told investigators that “things appeared to him to have been moved around inside the refrigerator since he vacated the apartment.”

Buford and Hogue contend that as of last week “no report has been produced to the defense concerning the two hairs ... which were submitted to the FBI crime lab.”

They say that, with the trial date closing in, if the hairs have any evidentiary value, it gives the defense little time to have experts inspect the hairs.

Merely showing the hairs at trial, they argue, invites jurors to speculate, “to look at a photograph of a strand of hair, then to look at a photograph of the victim and the defendant himself, seated in court, then infer that the strand of hair may have belonged to either of them.”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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