COQUILLE - It took a 12-person jury less than an hour to decide Friday afternoon that Rich Conn is guilty of assaulting his girlfriend Anne Bollinger with a deadly weapon.
Upon hearing the verdict, Conn, seated with his court-appointed attorney Ron Cox, put his head down on the table in front of him, cupped his head with his hands, said "I didn't do it, I didn't do it," then cried openly.
The crime is a Measure 11 offense with a mandatory 90-month prison sentence, which Frasier said he expects to be levied, with credit for time Conn has already served. Sentencing is at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 7.
Friday, the fourth day of the trial at the Coos County Courthouse, began with an expert witness testifying on behalf of the defense.
Dr. Richard Reimann, professor emeritus at Boise State University, describing the case as "impossibly complicated," tried to refute evidence supplied earlier in the week that the injuries Bollinger received could not have been from a fall down the stairs on Oct. 3 or 4, 2009.
Bollinger, 45, and Conn, 61, had been dating about five years and lived together in a house on Seven Devils Road north of Bandon when she received a skull fracture that has left her a quadriplegic unable to care for herself or communicate, a state she will likely not recover from, according to medical experts. She lives in an long-term care facility in Portland.
Conn claimed he didn't know what happened, but guessed it might have been a fall down the stairs.
But the jury didn't buy Conn's own testimony stating that he didn't realize the extent of her injuries when he allowed her to remain on the couple's couch for seven hours before calling for an ambulance.
Paramedics were immediately suspicious after responding to the house, where they found Bollinger in critical condition.
DA: Expert was key
Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier's witness, Dr. Wilson Hayes, a biomechanics expert and professor emeritus at Oregon State University, testified Wednesday that his analysis of the case indicated no fall could have produced the injuries Bollinger had to the upper back of her skull. Only a blunt instrument, such as a heavy frying pan, could have depressed her skull by one-third inch and caused the extensive bleeding of the brain she experienced, Hayes said.
Hayes' impressive credentials and testimony that employed the use of physics and biomechanics, was the state's best shot at getting a guilty verdict, Frasier said.
"I felt the case we tried seemed to be going exceptionally well," Frasier said after the verdict. "Dr. Hayes came across very well and basically I think the jury needed to decide if they believed Dr. Hayes or not, and if they didn't, there was no case."
Reimann's testimony Friday tried to cast doubt on Hayes' hypotheses. He demonstrated in the courtroom the force with which a frying pan could be swung vs. a baseball bat and a ball filled with water, representing the average weight of a woman's head. The loud demonstration illustrated that the ball could hit with more force than the frying pan or the baseball bat, Reimann said.
In closing arguments, Frasier focused on the inconsistencies in Conn's statements, the question of why he didn't seek medical treatment sooner and Hayes' testimony.
Cox argued in closing that there was no reason to believe that such a violent act would come "out of the blue."
"There's no doubt this is an ‘oh my gosh' case, and you look at her and say, ‘this is so awful,'" Cox said. "But the crime he is charged with is not for failing to provide medical care."
Frasier said he was a little surprised at how fast the verdict came back. And although he won the case, he's not completely celebratory.
"It's a tragedy, and part of you wants to say, ‘yippee, I won', but when you look at the totality of it, this lady is going to be like this the rest of her life," he said.
Amy Moss Strong is editor of the Bandon Western World. She can be reached at 541-347-2423 ext. 25 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.