EDMOND, Okla. –The trial of a 20-year-old Edmond man accused of molesting African orphans is underway in federal court.
Matthew Lane Durham has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges, including aggravated sexual abuse and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.
Opening statements began Wednesday.
Prosecutors showed handwritten notes allegedly authored by Durham himself, detailing sexual abuse against the very orphans he traveled to Kenya to help.
The 20-year-old defendant is accused of engaging in sex acts with a total of 8 Kenyan orphans between April and June 2014.
Six of those alleged victims are here in Oklahoma City to testify against Durham through an interpreter.
The courtroom is sealed during their testimony. No one is allowed inside except the jury, judge, and attorneys while the children are on the stand.
For all of the other witnesses, the courtroom is packed with friends and family supporting Durham.
Prosecutors say the crimes happened on Durham’s fourth trip to Kenya. He was volunteering at an orphanage where the caretaker says she found Durham in bed one night with a little girl.
The caretaker testified Wednesday that several of the girls later told her they’d been doing “bad manners with Matthew.”
The caretaker also told the court that Durham admitted his guilt to her in private, saying every time he read his Bible, what he did to the kids kept coming to his mind.
Testimony turned graphic Wednesday as prosecutors showed handwritten confessions from Durham, in which he described how he raped some of the orphans, both boys and girls, ages 6 to 15.
Durham’s attorney says those confessions were coerced and weren’t made to police. They were written, the defense says, under pressure from orphanage officials.
Durham’s attorney challenged the orphanage caretaker Wednesday, asking why she waited days before she reported the sexual abuse to police, and why she didn’t take the alleged victims to the hospital right away.
Testimony continues Thursday morning.
If convicted, Durham faces life in prison.