Dr. Melvin Morse, 58, is seen in this booking photo released by the Delaware State Police August 9, 2012.
Melvin Morse, 60, faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and conspiracy.
GEORGETOWN, Del. — A Delaware pediatrician force-fed his 11-year-old stepdaughter, forbade her from using the bathroom and used “waterboarding” in attempts to discipline the child, a prosecutor said during opening statements on Tuesday.
Dr. Melvin Morse’s defense lawyer told jurors in the child endangerment trial that the girl has a long history of lying to adults, including to counselors who have documented the dishonesty.
Morse, 60, faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and conspiracy. He was arrested in 2012 after the girl, then 11, told authorities she had been waterboarded on four occasions.
The prosecutor, Melanie Withers, said he held the girl face-up under a running kitchen faucet until she was unable to breathe. Morse “called it waterboarding,” Withers said.
Defense lawyer Joe Hurley said his client was joking when he used the term “waterboarding” and that the incidents had been attempts to wash the girl’s hair – an activity she hated.
Waterboarding is a controversial technique typically associated with the interrogation of terrorism suspects and involves forcibly holding a cloth over a person’s face and flooding it with water to simulate drowning.
US paediatrician Melvin Morse ‘waterboarded’ stepdaughter
A former paediatrician has gone on trial accused of waterboarding an 11-year-old girl in the US state of Delaware.
Melvin Morse, 60, is said to have held the face of his female companion’s daughter under a tap several times.
Mr Morse has written several books on children’s near-death experiences and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
He has pleaded not guilty to child endangerment and assault charges against him.
The 12-person jury was chosen on Monday for the trial stemming from the alleged 2012 incidents.
The BBC’s Kate Dailey, who is attending the court hearing in the town of Georgetown, says a clean-shaven Mr Morse shook his head vigorously as the prosecution claimed he had controlled every aspect of the girl’s life.
It is alleged that the accused decided what the girl should wear, when she could use the bathroom and what she should eat, starving her sometimes and force-feeding her at other times.
Mr Morse was initially accused of grabbing the girl by the ankle and dragging her across a gravel driveway in July 2012.
When the victim was later interviewed, she reportedly told authorities Mr Morse had held her face under a tap at least four times since 2009.