Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hazing: The New Frontier Of Victim Blaming


The surgeon who operated on an aspiring Florida A&M University fraternity member testified Thursday in a hazing trial that he considered the student's injuries serious although he had no broken bones, muscle damage or lasting effects other than a scar. The seriousness of the injuries is a key issue. Five defendants are among the first to be charged with violating Florida's new anti-hazing law, which makes it a felony to cause serious bodily damage or death.


Also Thursday, Jones' father denied his family has a financial motive for seeking the five men's criminal prosecution. Army Master Sgt. Mark Jones Jr. acknowledged he has hired a civil law firm but said he wanted the attorneys to help him handle the news media. When asked whether he was planning to sue, he said he was interested only in making sure justice was carried out. "There was this big, huge purple ball protruding out of his right buttocks," he said. "I was angry, very angry. My wife was terrified."

Yep, the disease of victim blaming is spreading. The man's son temporarily lost his hearing and needed surgery to treat another injury, but the defense is trying to paint the victim and his family as gold diggers which introduces the idea that the victim may be the real perpetrator in the situation in front of the jury.


Whenever I see this strategy I know the defense is trying to perform courtroom magic. They want the jury to focus on unresolved questions that will distract the jury from the evidence of what happened during the hazing incident which resulted in physical injury.

They want the jury to stop asking, "Was the alleged victim in this case seriously injured in a hazing incident? And if so, by whom?"

Reasonable doubt shifts from the crime itself (the hazing in this instance) to needing to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the motives of the victim and the victim's supporters are pure.

If the defense team proves that the father was angry (implying that the charges stem from petty revenge) then the jury is more likely to focus on details beyond the scope of the incident in question.

The jury may focus on trying to determine the answer to the question of whether the defendants are nice boys, or at least nicer than the victim.

The prosecutor and judge have some responsibility for keeping the focus on the potentially criminal behavior, but all us who are potential jurors also have a responsibility to learn how not to be fooled into looking for answers in the wrong places and ignoring answers that are right there if we'd just ignore the theatrics designed to keep us from seeing those answers.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   3 comments links to this post


At September 30, 2006 11:50 AM, Blogger Gracchi said...

Good comment I also detect this happening in political debate where one side diverts attention by noting small problems in other side's argument but forgetting the main force of it.

At September 30, 2006 5:30 PM, Anonymous cooper said...

I have always thought hazing should be looked upon as a crime of power. Those with power do the hazing, and it is always those in power who sould be responsible for whatever damage is done no matter how large or small.

At October 06, 2006 12:36 AM, Anonymous tina harris said...


I stumbled upon your blog because I too have a hazing story to tell. It took a month for the drama to come to an end, so to speak. At least I learned about an organization, and about this phenomenum you mention, the victim becomes the incitor.

We will never know why our son was hazed. I hope these people in Fla. have good luck. It seems so many people look at violence and bullies so casually these days.


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