Mattress display outrages mother, advocates

Setting up a bed in a Jackson County courtroom during a recent sex abuse trial involving a community theater actor and a young girl crossed the line from testimony to traumatization, said the alleged victim's mother and child advocates.

"I am ashamed that such a shameless maneuver would be allowed in a court of law," said Marlene Mish, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center.

Medford attorney Peter Carini used the mattress during his defense of Sunshine Sweetwater Bucy, accused of a single count of first-degree sexual abuse — a Measure 11 crime that could send Bucy to prison for six years.

The girl says Bucy, 38, kissed her on the lips, nibbled on her ear, touched her inner thigh next to her underwear and tried to unzip her sweatshirt during a party at his Faith Street apartment complex on July 31, 2010.

Bucy has consistently denied the allegations. He remains free on bail pending a new trial after jury members on May 20 declared themselves deadlocked in a six-to-six split. A new pretrial date is set for June 6.

During the second day of testimony, Carini brought Bucy's bed to the center of the courtroom and used the mattress as "demonstrative evidence for purposes of clarification and cross-examination." Carini defends his actions as both constitutional and legally necessary to defend his client.

"The Constitution says you have a right to confront your accuser, whether they are 90 years old or 3 years old," Carini said.

The mother expressed shock that Circuit Court Judge Tim Barnack allowed the bed in the courtroom and compelled her child to testify while standing next to it. She also is frustrated that Deputy District Attorney David Orr did not object to Carini's questions.

"I am very disappointed in the justice system. Nobody stood up for my children. Nobody stood up. Not once. This needs to never, ever happen again," she said.

Ashland police Detective Carrie Hull said the girl was shaking and clutching a doll to her chest during Carini's questioning. A younger sibling, a 7-year-old boy, also was questioned by Carini about the bed and what he saw that night, she said.

Carini said he simply asked the child to step down from the witness box, then questioned her about specific positions she and Bucy were in during the alleged abuse while Carini laid on the bed.

"I asked her if she was lying like this, and was Mr. Bucy lying like that," he said. "She answered my questions. I questioned her brother, too. Everything was done properly."

Carini denied that the girl, whom he characterized as attention-starved and precocious, was upset by his questions, or by the bed display. The girl's "ruse" of holding the doll to her chest was an "act," he said.

Carini blames the mother, whom he described during the trial as vindictive and mentally ill, for fostering the girl's allegations.

"The child was not traumatized," Carini said. "The child has never been traumatized by anything with this case."

The mother countered Carini has lied about her character and her actions. Worse than that, the defense attorney did damage to her children, she said.

"He asked my 7-year-old son why he didn't protect my daughter. He asked my daughter why she didn't run away. It was absolutely horrifying. My daughter is a victim. She is not a criminal. She is completely traumatized," the mother said.

Overwhelmed by the experience, her daughter had to be taken to an emergency counseling session after testifying, she said.

Orr said he and Carini debated the bed issue in Barnack's chambers prior to the beginning of the trial. Orr did not want the bed in the courtroom during the state's case, he said. Barnack ruled it was allowable for Carini to use the bed during his cross-examination, Orr said.

"I can't say Judge Barnack committed legal error," Orr said. "But I do feel Mr. Carini felt he had free reign in that courtroom, that it was his playground."

Orr said what happened to the child and the mother in this case demonstrates why defendants often are reluctant to testify in sex abuse cases.

"This is an unfortunate example of why sexual abuse victims are willing to let their offender go unpunished," Orr said. "Sometimes the only constraint upon a defense attorney is conscience. In this case, that did not appear to be a limiting factor."

Barnack did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Mish worked for the District Attorney's Office prior to becoming the director of the CAC. She has helped prepare child victims to testify in court, something that is difficult for any child regardless of the case, Mish said.

"(We ask a child to) walk into a courtroom full of strangers, see the person that (allegedly) hurt them and speak of things that are terrible, shameful or scary," Mish said.

"To drag a mattress into a court of law and ask a 10-year-old child to leave a witness stand and show the world what happened is worse, in my opinion, than the alleged offense itself," Mish said.

"Years from now this child may not remember, or may have recovered from, what may or may not have happened to her. But I promise you she will never forget a mattress being brought into a court of law, and the system traumatizing her again."

Carini said he did not violate the law, his ethics or his conscience. He believes in his client's innocence and plans to bring the bed back to the courtroom for Bucy's second trial, Carini said.

"I intend to put on a full defense as lawfully established under Oregon state law and the Constitution of the United States, including using the mattresses in this case," Carini said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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