DEDHAM, Mass. — A dominatrix was acquitted of manslaughter charges Monday in the death of a man who allegedly suffered a fatal heart attack while strapped to a replica of a medieval torture device.
The jury in Norfolk Superior Court deliberated for eight hours over two days before finding Barbara Asher, 56, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and dismemberment.
During his closing argument, prosecutor Robert Nelson re-enacted the bondage session that allegedly killed Michael Lord, of North Hampton, N.H., in July 2000.
Donning a leather mask and speaking to the jury through the zippered mouth, he said Asher did nothing to help Lord as he flailed about and died while strapped to the rack in a makeshift "dungeon" in Asher's Quincy condominium.
"She did nothing, nothing for five minutes," Nelson said, his voice muffled through the mask.
Then she summoned her boyfriend, who chopped up the body of the 275-pound retired telephone company worker before they dumped it behind a restaurant in Augusta, Maine, Nelson said. His remains have never been found.
Prosecutors said Asher confessed to police, but the alleged confession was not taped, and police investigators who testified said they did not save their notes from Asher's interrogation.
Asher's lawyer, Stephanie Page, said there was also no DNA evidence recovered from the bathtub, and without a body there was no real evidence that Lord was even dead.
"No body. No blood. No DNA. No evidence," Page said in her closing argument.
Several police investigators testified about Asher's alleged confession, saying she repeatedly denied any involvement in Lord's death, then asked the officers to turn off the tape recorder and confessed.
Detective Mark Sambataro of Salem, N.H., denied Page's claim that the investigators developed a theory about the case, then bullied Asher into admitting to a crime she didn't commit.
But it was Nelson's theatrical closing that provided the most dramatic moments of the trial.
The prosecutor pointed and hollered at Asher. He dumped a box full of hoods, collars and paddles onto a table, and proclaimed that Asher was trying to protect her business.
"That's why she didn't call the police," he said.
With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard to simulate Lord being strapped to the rack.
He paused as his head hung forward as if to simulate Lord's alleged death.
Page objected, and Norfolk Superior Court Judge Charles Grabau agreed.
"That's enough, Mr. Nelson," the judge said. "Thank you for your demonstration."
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