Morse pleads not guilty in waterboarding allegations
Last week, Georgetown pediatrician Melvin Morse, 58, denied allegations of “waterboarding” made by his 11-year-old daughter earlier this month.
According to the Delaware State Police, Morse and his wife, Pauline, were arrested after a neighbor called the police to report Morse dragging his daughter by her ankle across a gravel driveway at the family’s home following a domestic dispute.
The child was then taken into the house, where she was allegedly spanked by Morse. According to Public Information Officer Master Corporal Gary E. Fournier of the Delaware State Police, the spanking was not the cause of Morse’s arrest.
“Here in the state of Delaware, you’re allowed to discipline your child with an open hand, as long as it doesn’t leave marks,” he said. “The dragging across the ground [caused visible marks].”
After the arrest regarding the driveway incident, the 11-year-old girl and her 5-year-old sister were taken to the Child Advocacy Center, where she was interviewed and informed detectives that, since the beginning of May 2009, she had been disciplined by her father by what he called “waterboarding.”
“She described it as she was placed under a running faucet, turned upside down under the faucet, allowing water to go up her nose,” said Fournier, noting that it was an alleged method of punishment used by Morse.
Earlier this month, following the charges, the State of Delaware suspended Morse’s medical license. The emergency suspension order was signed by Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock and the president of the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, Dr. Stephen G. Cooper. Fournier emphasized that police currently do not have evidence that suggests Morse abused any of his patients.
At Morse’s preliminary hearing, defense attorney Joe Hurley waived his client’s right to a preliminary hearing, which takes the case directly to the Superior Court.
Hurley said that his client intends on pleading not guilty and has not been staying at the family’s home. Morse and his wife were mandated at the time of their arrests to stay away from each other and both of their daughters.
“[Morse is] nervous, embarrassed, scared — scared for his children, terrified — you name it. They’re all negative,” said Hurley, of Morse.
Hurley said that he’s “extremely concerned” that if the case moves to trial, Morse may not be able to get a fair trial by jury.
“That waterboard word caught a lot of attention,” he said. “It will put a coat of contamination on a jury pool. It’s a word like ‘rape.’ You hear a word and there’s a certain emotional charge with it. ‘Waterboarding’ has a distinct emotional pull immediately when you hear it. It makes you think of bad, bad, bad, bad people. And that attaches to you to some degree.”
Morse’s wife, Pauline Morse, has retained Dean Johnson as her defense attorney. She was charged in connection with the allegation that she was aware of the alleged “waterboarding” and did nothing to stop it. Morse and his wife were each charged with four counts of Reckless Endangering in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and two counts of endangering the Welfare of a Child.
Both Melvin and Pauline Morse waived their rights to preliminary hearings. Their cases will now go to Delaware Superior Court.