Jury deliberation began Thursday in the trial of Eric Hawkins, a former Emporia chiropractor charged with sex crimes against three female patients.
The group of six male and six female jurors exited the courtroom for discussion around 3:30 p.m., but was unable to reach a final verdict by 6 p.m. and elected to delay proceedings until Friday morning. Deliberation is set to resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Lyon County Courthouse.
Hawkins faces potential charges of aggravated sexual battery and rape during this portion of the proceedings. He testified for the first time Thursday, emphatically stating he had never exposed or touched any patient’s genitalia during his career as a chiropractor. Hawkins additionally said he was as surprised to hear the allegations as anyone else.
“When I heard police had come [to the chiropractic offices] searching for records, I couldn’t imagine what in the world was going on,” Hawkins said. “That’s why I went to the police station the first time ... without even having a lawyer or attorney present. I wanted to figure out what was going on.”
According to court documents obtained by The Gazette, the first count alleges Hawkins put his hands beneath the accuser’s pants and underwear and massaged her buttocks without consent. The second count alleges that Hawkins pulled his teenage accuser’s waistband below her genitals and penetrated her labia with his fingers. A second sexual battery charge is scheduled for trial next week.
Final arguments from the state and defense centered around the varying nature and timeliness of the alleged victims’ initial reports to law enforcement and their later in-court testimony.
The defense asserted that although Hawkins may have been able to communicate the medical procedures in question more effectively to his patients, any claim of a sexual crime was either misunderstood or fabricated.
“When you go to a chiropractor, you have to be touched,” said Defense Attorney Dionne Scherff in reference to the alleged incident of sexual battery. “That is the nature of the practice. We expect to be touched when we go to the chiropractor, that is what they have to do medically to be effective. It was a valid procedure that he did that day…
“The common denominator in this case is that [the alleged victims] are both young. When you marry that up with a doctor who has a busy practice, who has not been good about explaining what procedure he has been doing or taking the time to explain a process to patients, that’s why we’re here today.”
The state encouraged members of the jury to take all evidence presented during the case into account, saying the verdict was clear when accusations from the alleged victims could be corroborated by the testimony of law enforcement officials and professional witnesses.
“Ladies and gentleman of the jury, comments that [the defense] council makes are not evidence,” Lyon County Attorney Amy Aranda said. “If any of the comments the counsel makes are not supported by the evidence, they should be disregarded. What you have heard is that two young women were treated by the defendant. Two fathers told you that they trusted the defendant with the care of their daughters. They trusted the defendant to provide them with legitimate medical treatment, medical treatment that was necessary. That’s not what they received.”