Jurors deciding a case against a former coach and foster parent accused of molesting a young relative likely will have to base their verdict on who they believe is telling the truth — the 13-year-old alleged victim who took the stand Tuesday or defendant Sevedeo Lujan of Santa Fe — as virtually no physical evidence was presented.
After a full day of testimony in the child rape case, including statements from the girl Lujan is accused of violating, the jury considered the case for just an hour before adjourning for the night around 6 p.m. The eight men and six women tasked with determining Lujan’s guilt or innocence are scheduled to resume deliberations Wednesday morning.
Lujan, who has denied the accusations, did not take the stand; nor did his attorney, Santiago Juarez, present any witnesses in the case.
The alleged victim told jurors that in 2012, when she was 10, Lujan, 54, came to her house while her mother was out and her older and younger sisters were sleeping, and that he rubbed her and digitally penetrated her more than once.
She said she was wearing a yellow dress with sunflowers on it when she asked Lujan to scratch her back. She said he started doing as she asked, but then his hand moved lower and lower, until he was “tickling” her behind. She said he eventually slipped his hand inside her clothing and violated her, despite her repeated attempts to close her thighs.
The girl testified that “it hurt,” and that “it doesn’t seem to be tickling when you are touching somebody in a certain spot.”
She said she didn’t tell anyone until a year later, when her father pressed her about why she’d been so sad and withdrawn for the previous six months.
The only time jurors heard Lujan address the accusations was when prosecutors showed a video of him being interviewed by a Santa Fe Police Department detective in 2013. In the video, Lujan initially denies having touched the child inappropriately at all, saying he was only having fun with her and never got aroused when he was around her or her sisters.
But later in the interview, in response to rapid-fire questions and suggestions from Sgt. Judah Montaño, Lujan appears to agree that perhaps he became aroused by inadvertently touching the girl, but that his morals made him stop before he went as far as having intercourse with her.
“Did something inside of you say, ‘I want to have sex with [the child]?’ ” Montaño asks.
“It could have, yes,” Lujan replies.
In closing statements to the jury, Juarez focused on the lack of physical evidence in the case and the state’s burden to prove Lujan’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” noting that the exact date of the alleged incident is unclear, that the girl didn’t say anything about Lujan threatening her or telling her to keep the episode secret, and that instead of being defensive in his interview, Lujan stuck up for the child, saying she had no reason to lie.
“He said he never intended to touch her in a bad way,”Juarez said. “He didn’t say, ‘she’s a liar, she’s a tart, she seduced me.’ ”
Juarez warned the jurors against making a decision based on sympathy or prejudice, directing them to follow the law in presuming his client is innocent unless the state presented enough evidence to prove him guilty.
Assistant District Attorney Susan Stinson told the jury that many of the issues Juarez raised — such as the fact that the child hadn’t told a doctor or school counselor about the incident — were irrelevant. She told the jurors they should focus on whom they find credible.
“To find the defendant not guilty,” she said, “you would have to consider [the child] a liar. There is no compromise on that. She would have to be a cold, calculating, deliberate, 11-year-old liar when she told her father, a 13-year-old liar when she sat here today.”
Before leaving for the evening, the jury asked to view the video again and asked if there was a written transcript of the interview. None was admitted as evidence during the trial. The jurors also asked for the legal definition of “intent.”
The jury was expected to resume deliberations at 8:3o a.m. Wednesday.
Police have said Lujan coached in a youth football league in Pecos — where he used to live — and youth basketball in Santa Fe. A state Children, Youth and Families Department spokesman has said that Lujan was licensed as a foster parent for a one-year period from 2004 to 2005, and fostered six children during that year.
Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @phaedraann.