A woman recoiled on a New Orleans witness stand Tuesday morning as a man, questioning her, approached her with a police report in his hand.
“No, no. Get away from me,” she demanded, minutes before she collapsed in sobs and had to be led away.
The woman believes the man grilling her in court was the very stranger who terrorized her at knifepoint a decade ago, raped her repeatedly for hours, threatened to slit her throat, then gave her the scar that remains across her left cheek.
Accused rapist Tommy Scott, 50, made the unusual — and generally considered inadvisable — decision to represent himself at trial this week on charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
He is charged with aggravated rape and aggravated burglary.
Scott was given the opportunity Tuesday to personally cross-examine the two women he is accused of raping.
“My name is Tommy Scott,” he said to one of the women on the witness stand. “I’m the person accused of raping you.”
Both women, along with a parade of police officers, struggled to respond to him.
Scott, who was for two years considered incompetent to stand trial and was sent to a mental hospital for rehabilitation, asked long-winded and often incomprehensible questions.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” was a common response.
Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman chastised him repeatedly for asking impenetrable questions or making unsolicited declarations about his innocence.
“Could you formulate that into a question?” she said once.
“Your commentary has to stop; it has to cease,” she added later.
Assistant District Attorneys Brittany Reed and Iain Dover objected, over and over, to his monologues.
Scott is attempting to prove to the jury that he is not a serial rapist. Rather, he claims to be the victim of a vast conspiracy that involves planted DNA evidence, rogue detectives and lying rape victims, one of whom he suggested was a prostitute.
The women dismissed him.
“You were in my house and raped me multiple times,” one said.
Scott later asked Pittman to forbid the women from referring to their rapist as “you.”
He is on trial this week for only one of the attacks, but prosecutors were permitted to present evidence of a second, later rape under a state law that allows testimony about other crimes if it establishes a pattern of predatory behavior.
A woman testified Tuesday that in the middle of the night in November 2003, a strange man broke into her house, wielding a foot-long knife.
He put it to her throat, she said. When she struggled, he cut her across the face and the hand. For hours, she said, he raped her repeatedly.
She complied with most of his demands, she said.
She thought he would kill her if she didn’t.
“I wanted you out of my house. I wanted to be rid of you,” she told her questioner.
Scott said she willingly had sex with him. He referred to the incident repeatedly as “the consensual sex case of 2003” and asked her about “the time we hung together.”
“We never hung together,” she replied.
The woman said she eventually ran screaming from the apartment. When police arrived, they found Scott sleeping in her bed, still clutching the knife he allegedly used to terrorize her.
He was arrested and police ran his DNA through a national database of unsolved crimes.
He was tried twice on an aggravated rape charge, but the jury couldn’t decide either time and the trials ended with hung juries.
Scott pleaded guilty to a burglary charge and spent four years in prison, but the DNA collected from him after that arrest was eventually linked to a similar crime in 1992.
He is on trial this week for that two-decade-old rape.
The alleged victim in that case told the court that June 10, 1992, had ended as an ordinary Wednesday.
She went to her 15-year-old son’s baseball game, after which they went home and went to bed around 9 p.m.
“I was awakened by somebody smothering me with a pillow,” she told the jury.
“He was hissing at me and had a knife to my throat. I was trying to wake up, it was not making any sense. I was fighting with him.”
He cut her finger, down to the bone, during the scuffle, she said. But, she said, he told her he would kill both her and her son if she struggled.
“As a single mother, you have choices to make,” she cried on the witness stand.
So she said she lay still and quiet as he put a pillowcase over her head and raped her with the knife to her throat.
He kept talking, “hissing,” she said, but he didn’t make sense.
She said she felt as if she was sitting on the dresser on the other side of the room, watching something happen to her body.
The case remained unsolved for more than a decade, until the DNA match after the other’s woman’s rape in 2003.
Scott was charged with the 1992 rape in 2007. He fired a series of attorneys.
He was declared incompetent to stand trial in September 2009, and the case stalled for two years as he was treated at the state mental hospital in East Feliciana Parish.
The hospital decided he was competent to proceed to trial in August 2011, and Scott soon announced he intended to represent himself.
Pittman appointed attorney Eddie Rantz to assist him, but only on courtroom procedure. Otherwise he is on his own.
The trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday.
It is unclear whether Scott will testify in his own defense and, if he chooses to do so, who will ask him questions.