October 8, 2008 in City

Coe takes the witness stand

Convicted rapist says there’s ‘zero’ risk of new offense
Staff writer
 
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON photo

Kevin Coe reads from previous trial testimony while on the witness stand in Superior Court on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)

Kevin Coe, taking the stand Tuesday as a hostile witness in his civil commitment trial, said his risk of committing another rape was “zero.”

In fact, the 61-year-old denied ever groping or raping anyone – including the woman whose October 1980 assault sent him to prison for 25 years.

Coe’s rasping, rambling voice contrasted with the confident testimony he delivered during his two rape trials in the 1980s.

Assistant Attorney General Malcom Ross asked Coe on Tuesday if he’d agree to sexual deviancy treatment if he were released instead of being sent to a state mental facility, as the state recommends. A Spokane County Superior Court jury will make that decision next month.

“No … I don’t believe I need that,” Coe replied.

Ross juxtaposed 1980s testimony about Coe’s activities in the late 1970s until his arrest in March 1981 with Coe’s current denials that he’d raped women, changed his appearance regularly and repeatedly brandished a fake penis in public.

Coe denied confessing to the late psychologist Dr. Robert Wetzler that he raped a woman referred to in court as D.F. The Feb. 9, 1981, assault was the last linked to Coe before his arrest.

“You told Wetzler that you raped D.F., didn’t you?” Ross asked.

“I told Dr. Wetzler that that was the count to which I would make an admission,” he replied. Coe added he had to admit “to something” in his attempt – unsuccessful – to avoid prison in favor of treatment in a state mental hospital.

“Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Coe, that since your arrest you’ve told a web of lies?” Ross asked over defense objections.

“No,” Coe replied.

The media was allowed to photograph Coe after a ruling Tuesday morning by Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor. O’Connor granted a request by The Spokesman-Review to photograph him while he testifies. O’Connor had previously ruled that the press could not film Coe at the witness table with his lawyers, and that ruling stands.

Tim Trageser, Coe’s attorney, opposed the newspaper’s request, saying it threatens Coe’s safety in the Spokane County Jail to stream his image and testimony online.

Also, Trageser said, “the added pressure of knowing you’re exposed to the entire world is unfair. … I’d ask for an order not allowing Mr. Coe to be filmed.”

But it’s becoming common for court testimony to be available online, O’Connor said.

“The question becomes whether there’s any specific reason Mr. Coe should not be filmed,” O’Connor said.

While testifying before the camera might be stressful, it also provides an uncensored record, the judge added. She said she wasn’t persuaded by the safety argument.

Coe is expected to take the stand again when the defense presents its case as early as next week.

In cross-examination Tuesday, Coe’s lawyers attacked state expert Dr. Robert Keppel’s “signature analysis,” which concluded Coe was responsible for 18 South Hill rapes in the 1970s and ’80s.

Trageser detailed a series of rape cases, pointing out that the perpetrator didn’t always follow the patterns Keppel described Monday as common to Coe.

Trageser also noted that several victims didn’t identify Coe in lineups or were uncertain about their attacker’s identity.

In the case of Shelly Monahan, biological evidence found on her body after her rape contained a B blood type, while Coe’s blood type was A, he said.

“If that indicates the seminal fluid is from a B secretor and Mr. Coe is an A secretor, what would that mean to you?” Trageser asked.

“It could mean she had consensual sex with a B secretor at some time,” Keppel replied.

“Mr. Coe was not charged for the rape offense of Ms. Hall (Monahan), was he?” Trageser asked.

“No sir,” Keppel replied. But, he said, the way the rape was carried out was characteristic of Coe, and the attack belongs among the 18 in his analysis.

The Spokesman-Review doesn’t typically name victims of sexual assault, but Monahan, a Spokane broadcaster, has not shied away from being publicly identified in connection with the case.

Trageser also tried to assert that Keppel’s expertise lies with high-profile homicides such as the Green River murders, not rapes. But Keppel replied that 85 percent of all homicides have a sexual component.

Keppel stood by his thesis that Coe’s rituals were driven by his need for coerced sex.

Reach Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or at karend@spokesman.com.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email