Jury begins deliberating Victor David case

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

The attorney for a Marysville man on trial for allegedly abusing his wife for years on a filthy sailboat urged a Snohomish County jury Monday to let facts, not emotion, guide their verdict.

"This case looks horrific until you start breaking it apart, bit by bit, point by point," defense attorney Bryan Hershman of Tacoma said.

Hershman told jurors that after nearly a month of testimony, reasonable doubt remains whether Victor David, 60, committed second-degree assault against his wife, Linda David, 52. Justice demands an acquittal, Hershman said. "I don’t think it is even a close call," he added.

But deputy prosecutor Kathy Patterson argued that evidence shows Victor David was an abuser who isolated his wife on their boat and then tried, and ultimately failed, to pass off Linda David’s injuries as the results of accidents or illness.

"She is nothing more than a punching bag for him," Patterson said.

She reminded jurors of Linda David’s own testimony that her husband had hit her and pushed her down, but she chose to stay with him "no matter what," believing that Victor David didn’t have it in his heart to hurt her.

"Unfortunately for Mrs. David, she was wrong," Patterson said. "He did have it in his heart to beat her. And he did."

Victor David’s trial concluded with attorneys on both sides offering a total of nearly four hours of closing arguments. Jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon and were scheduled to resume this morning.

Prosecutors allege Victor David abused his wife when the pair lived at waterfront locations from Tacoma to Everett, beginning perhaps as early as 1979. Linda David was removed from their boat in January 1997 after a state social worker checked on her welfare and found her emaciated, barely able to move and covered with filth and scars. The state had for years paid Victor David to provide his wife with chore services and in-home care.

Linda David now lives in a Lynnwood nursing home and recently was awarded nearly $9 million to settle a lawsuit that was brought on her behalf against state officials.

Although the case has received a lot of media attention and Victor David already has been convicted in the court of public opinion, Hershman said, his criminal trial did not produce a single witness who actually saw the man assault his wife. Nor was there testimony to explain medical records and other evidence showing that Linda David had problems with balance and speech in the early 1980s, the attorney said.

Prosecutors did make frequent use of enlarged photographs, depicting in grim detail the scars on Linda David’s forehead, as well as her distorted "cauliflower" ears, Hershman said.

There also was considerable testimony about Victor David’s unusual lifestyle, which included sharing his cramped sailboat home with up to seven large German shepherd dogs.

Hershman said that when examined carefully, the case against his client largely came down to "conviction by idiosyncrasy."

Even if the conditions he kept his wife in were neglectful, that still can’t be held against Victor David because he is not charged with neglect, Hershman told jurors.

That may be true, Patterson said, but neglect "plays a big part in this case because it tells you what this man thinks of his wife."

"How concerned and caring is a man who would let his wife lay in vomit and feces, surrounded by German shepherd dogs?" she asked at one point.

Judge Thomas Wynne instructed jurors Monday that under the law they may only consider evidence of assault between September 1993 and January 1997. The jury has been given two theories of the case to consider, including one option premised on the notion that Victor David knowingly tortured his wife.

The man also is charged with illegally possessing a firearm.

If convicted of the assault charge, he faces up to 10 years in prison. The maximum punishment for the weapons charge is five years behind bars.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Krider said at a press conference on Monday that his office will seek a stiff punishment for David if he is convicted. Krider also praised deputy prosecutors.

"Anybody who thinks this was an easy case is extremely mistaken," Krider said.

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