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Evidence presented in Morris case

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

The criminal trial for Scott Morris began on Tuesday with the questioning of five witnesses inside Grant County Superior Court I.

In 2014, Morris was arrested on a warrant for criminal deviate conduct regarding an alleged incident involving a patient at the Marion VA Hospital. He was tried in 2016, but the jury could not come to a conclusion. A new jury was selected on Monday for his retrial, where he is represented by private attorney Antonio Sisson, of Muncie. Morris is charged with criminal deviate misconduct, a class B Felony.

Marion VA Hospital Nurse Jennifer Brumley testified what she observed the night of the victim’s alleged assault in November 2013. Working in the Alzheimer’s and dementia unit, she said she was helping another patient to bed around 8:45 p.m. that night. Meanwhile, then licensed practical nurse Morris was assisting a veteran to bed as well but he shut the door.

Brumley said this was common, especially during visiting hours. The nurse said with larger patients and those with dementia she typically leaves the door open so that she may call for help if necessary. Though Morris' patient was regarded as cooperative, Brumley said people with dementia or Alzheimer's can be somewhat unpredictable. 

After half an hour of the door being shut, she was concerned and decided to check on Morris. When she opened the door, she reported seeing him performing oral sex on the patient. She reported it to her supervisor within the hour, and the victim was transported to Marion General Hospital the following morning for DNA collection.

The defense asked questions in an attempt to establish the visibility at the time. That night, the VA hospital had a scheduled power outage to test their generators. A ceiling light above the patient’s doorway in the hall and a light inside the doorway in the room were active at the time of the alleged assault, according to Brumley.

Sisson explained he had little access to the VA to recreate the scene to present as evidence for his case. 

Swabs collected at MGH were placed in what is commonly known as a rape kit and delivered to the Indiana State Police Lab in Fort Wayne for testing. Forensic scientists tested samples from the victim’s bed and swabs from his genitals and found amylase, a bodily enzyme used to break down foods for digestion found in saliva. While amylase does not contain DNA, Forensic Scientist Lori Healey testified that they often look for amylase on evidence that could indicate the presence of cells containing DNA.

When a swab from the victim’s genitals was tested, Morris’ DNA matched the profile in all 15 observed places from the sample. Another sample from the victim’s scrotum matched Morris’ DNA profile in four places.

In his opening statement, Sisson explained that the jury can expect a testimony from Morris. Doctors at the VA have been subpoenaed, according to Sisson, but as of 4:45 p.m. Tuesday there was no word on whether they would appear for testimony on Wednesday. Grant County Prosecutor Jim Luttrull said prior to recess that he expects his case to rest by Wednesday afternoon.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Superior Court I.