Jury Sides With Faulk
By William C. Lhotka
May 13, 2003
Helen Dunne, who pressed a domestic battery lawsuit after onetime fiance Marshall Faulk refused to pay her $3 million to settle quietly, walked out of court Monday owing him $125.
Jurors needed less than two hours to reject all six counts of Dunne’s case and to find in favor of a counterclaim by the Rams star running back that she had abused the legal process.
He had sought a symbolic $1 in damages but was awarded $125, which is the cost of filing a suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Faulk implied while talking to reporters later that he would not have settled the case for any amount. "It’s just me," he said. "It’s how I was raised. I faced up to the challenge."
Dunne, who still will collect about $25,000 a month in child support and expenses for bearing three of Faulk’s sons, said she was "not as upset as I thought I would be."
She also reaffirmed in an interview that all three are Faulk’s children; a former baby sitter testified last week that Dunne told her one of them was not.
Because of the suit, Dunne said, Faulk "will think very long and very hard before he raises his hands to me or any other woman."
Faulk denied ever striking Dunne, with whom he had an off-and-on relationship for years, and to whom he was briefly engaged. He said she was the aggressor in one of the incidents she described and said he had no involvement in the others.
No criminal charges were ever filed in the case.
One of Faulk’s lawyers, Scott Rosenblum, said Monday that Dunne originally asked for $3 million, but before the trial started last week had dropped it to $1.5 million. Her suit sought a "substantial" but not specific sum.
The jury of six men and six women began deliberations about 11:45 a.m. Monday, a job they finished in under two hours.
Faulk said that if he could address the jurors, he would tell them, "Thanks for being fair. Thanks for listening. Thanks for your time."
Dunne, 27, said she intends to return to Houston, where she has lived since July, and possibly return to college to get the 24 credit hours she needs for an undergraduate degree.
She said Faulk had been generous with the children financially, but not with his time. "I hope, eventually, he will get it together to help me co-parent," she said.
Her lawyer, Charles Todt, declined to discuss the verdict, saying he wanted to avoid aggravating acrimony between Faulk and Dunne, in the interest of the children.
Testimony at the trial disclosed that Dunne had relationships with other athletes while she was seeing Faulk, and described episodes of anger fueled by jealousy.
Dunne and Faulk both took turns on the witness stand.
At a news conference, Faulk said he would give some thought to seeking custody of the boys. He also has three other children with different women.
The fifth day of the trial opened Monday with Presiding Judge Barbara Wallace reading 24 jury instructions dealing with six counts of alleged abuse by Faulk, and three instructions dealing with Faulk’s counterclaim.
Then the jurors heard 90 minutes of closing arguments by Todt, who accused Faulk of beating his client, and Rosenblum, who accused Dunne of extortion.
"There is only one verdict," said Rosenblum, who called the lawsuit Dunne’s "last chance for a stickup. … You cannot extort the truth, you cannot blackmail reputation, and you cannot exploit a man for your own gain."
Todt emphasized testimony by doctors who said injuries Dunne suffered in October 1999, August 2000 and October 2000 were consistent with domestic violence.
He also cited the testimony of Terrence Rohen, a psychologist who said Dunne suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, bouts of depression and low self-esteem – all symptoms of being battered.
Rosenblum reminded the jurors of Bayla Myer, a psychologist who had said Dunne never complained to her of physical abuse by Faulk, and who had diagnosed Dunne as suffering "narcissistic" or "histrionic" personality disorder.
Todt pointed out that the Rams had paid Myer’s bill. He suggested a conspiracy involving the football team, Faulk, Rosenblum and another attorney.
Rosenblum said he saw a conspiracy among Dunne, Todt and Rohen.