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The Darryl Lierman trial, which faced a mid-afternoon delay as the judge ordered jury sequestration, continued until nearly 8 p.m. Thursday.
Lierman, 51, is accused of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child, and three counts of child abuse. He has pleaded not guilty to all eight charges.
Lierman’s court-appointed attorneys are Doug Stratton and Jason Doele, and the state is represented by Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler, Assistant Antelope County Attorney Joe Smith and Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Sandra Allen.
The day started with testimony from the state's witness, Deb Milligan, a mental health therapist at Good Life Counseling and Support in Norfolk.
During Smith's questioning, she stated that the alleged victim in this case was her client from March 2015 to April 2016. After about two months of sessions, Milligan said she disclosed being abused by Lierman. The therapist said she started making excuses for him, saying things like, "I don't think he knew any better. He had a really bad life. He was in foster care." Milligan said she explained that everyone is still responsible for their own behavior. "Do you think if you were sexually abused, you would sexually abuse your own children?" she asked her client. The alleged victim broke down crying and said, "No!" Milligan said. She said her client began crying harder and said, "It hurt so bad the first time he put his thing inside me," and she said Lierman told her, "I thought you were my tough girl." In later sessions, her client said she was forced to massage Lierman's penis, and leave the door open while she showered. She also described being physically abused by Lierman when he allegedly had her pull her pants down and bend over his knees while he spanked her with a back scratcher.
In Stratton's cross examination, he asked Milligan if she checked the validity of these statements or talked to any other family members, to which she replied, "No."
After a lunch break, the attorneys and Judge Mark Johnson held a long discussion in the judges chambers. The judge requested that the jury be brought back in and informed jurors that they were going to be sequestered. At about 2 p.m., he instructed them to go home and pack their bags in preparation for five days sequestration. They were told to return to the Antelope County Courthouse by 4:30 p.m.
The judge explained that “procedural matters have arisen,” so evidentiary matters must be taken care of, as he ordered the jury to be sequestered. He said the case will also be heard on Saturday, but not Sunday, in order to expedite the trial.
The jury will be housed in a Norfolk hotel and allowed access to the telephone in their room. The judge prohibited cell phones, computers, newspapers and access to local television stations. Transportation will be provided to the jury members, and they will be in the custody of the bailiff. Judge Johnson concluded his statements to the jury by saying he expects Tuesday to be the final day of the trial.
After the jury returned with their bags, two temporary bailiffs, Barb Finn and Lyle Juracek, were sworn in. The judge said they will assist bailiff Ann Barnes when she is unavailable.
Michelle Kieffe, a licensed psychologist at Boys Town, was the final witness of the day. Smith asked his witness why it is difficult for a child of sexual abuse to report the abuse. "The child is dependent on their parents for basic needs and survival, and we are pre-wired to want love and acceptance from our parents," she said. Kieffe said she has been providing therapy to the alleged victim since September 2017. The psychologist said she started meeting with her once a week, but as the trial approached, her symptoms have increased. Kieffe said she is now seeing her client twice a week. The psychologist said the alleged victim told her abuse by Lierman was more common while she traveled with him in the semi, as she was forced to perform oral sex on him in the back of the truck and shower with him at truck stops. Kieffe said the first sexual act her client recognized as abuse was when Lierman was out on bond when they lived in Meadow Grove. The psychologist said she also talked about a time when she was handcuffed to the bed by Lierman. "She couldn't move her arms," Kieffe said. "She felt helpless." The psychologist said the alleged victim told her she hid the handcuffs in her locker at school for awhile, but when Lierman found out, he became angry and more forceful and aggressive. She also described times when she had to perform sexual acts in order to have privileges to see her friends. The alleged victim said Lierman blamed his previous accuser for putting these thoughts in his head.
In Stratton's cross examination, he asked Kieffe if she checked the validity of these statements or talked to any other family members, to which she replied, "No."
The sequestered jury was dismissed for the day around 5:30 p.m., and then an evidentiary hearing was held regarding items the defense wanted to enter as evidence.
Four out of the five items were not allowed into evidence by Judge Johnson. The fifth item is under advisement and the judge will rule on it at a later time. The rejected evidence called the alleged victim's past behavior into question, such as times when she didn't want to follow the rules of the house regarding no makeup or dating until age 16. The judge ruled that the evidence was irrelevant to the case, stating, "It, at best, shows she's a teenager."
The trial will reconvene Friday and Saturday at 8:30 a.m. There will be no proceedings on Sunday, and, although it is a holiday, court will be in session on Monday.
Near the end of the hearing, talk about a possible mistrial was put to rest. Smith said Stratton made several objectionable references during his opening statement that were the subject of a prior hearing, but Abler believes its unnecessary to request a mistrial.