Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Huff Post's Hutchinson Fails Hard Lessons From Duke Rape Case

Huff Post: Hard lessons from the Duke Rape Case by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong should do the right thing, cut his losses and drop the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault against the three Duke University lacrosse players. That would close what has to be one of the dreariest episodes in the history of rape and racial victimization cases.
Yes, it would close an episode in the history of rape and racial victimization cases, but it would do so on an unfounded accusation against this alleged rape victim. But, hey, when we are focusing on the big picture what does it matter if there is a real possibility that a real rape victim has been publicly shafted and branded a cold-blooded liar directly by some people and indirectly by others?

Many people reveal their ignorance and lack of research when they equate the dropping of the rape charges as evidence that this is no longer a rape case in the general sense. In North Carolina, the charge of rape only applies to vaginal intercourse (penis in vagina) so any boy or man in NC who claims to have been raped by a man is making a false legal statement even if he is reporting what really happened.

The prosecution stated that they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that vaginal intercourse happened during the alleged crime. That's a far cry from saying no rape happened. As a rape survivor, I know what it is to question my memories when they conflict with what other people are telling me.

But Nifong has given no hint that he has learned any lesson from the fiasco. Whether it's ego, to save face, or just plain bull-headedness, he's determined to barge ahead and pile more embarrassment on himself with a prosecution.
What if it is credible but non-DNA evidence that this alleged rape victim told the truth that is behind his determination? Should Nifong please his critics at the expense of someone who in his professional opinion is the victim of a serious and violent crime? What if the lacrosse players lied when they said no non-team members were at the party? What if the unknown DNA belongs to friends of the Duke lacrosse team?

That many people refuse to even consider these possibilities speaks volumes.

Those who stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rapists without proof must stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rape victims without proof if they want to be credible to more than a subgroup of people and not be seen as rape enablers.

Right now we have lack of DNA evidence linking specific individuals to this crime and we have hearsay (some of it slanderous in my opinion) and questions about the admissibility of evidence. If this case turns out to have reasonable doubt on all current charges against the 3 defendants that is not the same thing as proof that the alleged victim lied. Unfortunately, many people don't give a damn about this difference.

If there are sides battling over this case, Earl Ofari Hutchinson has all the rapists in the country on his side yelling, "You tell him." He forgets that at the peril of all those who are raped.
Then there's Nifong. He was roundly denounced for rushing to judgment on the case to curry favor with blacks and women's groups, and to boost his reelection chances. There's no evidence that Nifong purposely used the case to do that.
But lack of evidence hasn't stopped people from repeating this denouncement as if it were proven. Those who do so either do so out of stupid ignorance or with the hope that people will assume there couldn't be any valid reasons for Nifong to pursue this case.

Just as in the OJ case there is a chance that money and PR of a grand conspiracy to harm the defendants can get the job done, this time possibly without a trial. But victory doesn't always equal justice.

Make no mistake, if the defendants are not guilty of the charges against them, I want them found not guilty of those charges. Unfortunately, with the tone of many of the attacks against the alleged victim and those who support her right to pursue justice, I doubt whether those who have verbally attacked this alleged victim would cheer if it were proven in a court of law that she is telling the truth and the jury found the defendants guilty.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   5 comments links to this post


At December 26, 2006 11:41 PM, Anonymous adam said...

"Those who stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rapists without proof must stand up and say it is wrong to railroad alleged rape victims without proof if they want to be credible to more than a subgroup of people and not be seen as rape enablers."

I agree that alleged rape victims should not be slandered and painted as liars prima facie because of who they accuse. But there is more at stake here (although it may not seem like it due to the media coverage) than just who is telling the truth and who is lying. While a lack of evidence of guilt does not prove innocence, and a lack of evidence of innocence does not prove guilt, the benefit of the doubt in our system goes to the accused.

For both the victim and the accuser, the fact that subgroups of the population have lined up on both sides to condemn them without really knowing the facts has ruined their good name and irrevocably changed their lives for the worse. However, only the accused are at risk of spending much of the rest of their lives in jail.

I honestly would make no claim to have any idea what actually happened that night. I think the fact that so many people know that these guys did it, or know that the accuser is lying, speaks quite a bit about how people look at this case. But I do think the main thing that is clear is that no one will ever be able to agree about what happened. I would reserve judgment about whether or not they did anything wrong until I knew more about the facts of the case. However, maybe it is just spin from the defense team, but unless some smoking gun that has not been publicly discussed comes to light, I doubt that the truth of what happened will ever be so definitively proved as to warrant these young men to spend most of the rest of their lives in jail.

At December 27, 2006 8:52 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Adam, you are wrong when you say the consequences for alleged rapists is always worse than it is for alleged victims.

In several cases that I know of, people have tried to hire someone to murder the alleged victim. In at least one other case an alleged rape victim was murdered so she couldn't testify.

In this case numerous people have revealed this alleged victim's identity so there is no way of knowing if someone out there believes she deserves to die and is willing to give her what he thinks she deserves.

For a case that illustrates that real rape victims can face criminal charges read this.

At December 27, 2006 2:23 PM, Blogger sophie said...

only the accused are at risk of spending much of the rest of their lives in jail

Adam; in the unlikely event that an innocent man did indeed get a significant jail term, it would indeed be a catastrophe.
But what of the victim? Rape is common. Rapists hand out a life sentence at the time they decide to rape - few victims are ever the same again.

And now I've just blown my 'neutral' cover :-) I've opened up this question on my blog, after checking out the blog of yesterday's commenter, Marcella.

I'm not asking for any input on whether false accusations are common or not, but feel free to spam me with links on that issue (I know you've done a lot of posts on it).

At December 28, 2006 5:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Men serve terms of "most of their lives" in jail for rape? I was under the impression that a five-year sentence was damn good, for those miniscule number of rape cases ever resulting in a conviction at all.

Hell, five years is a long sentence in a child molestation case.

But pretty short for drug possession. Ah, priorities.

At June 04, 2007 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent 3 weeks bleeding after a violent, drug facilitated sexual assault committed by a member of the local sheriffs department. I went through hell (and three detectives) trying to get my case into court. Not remembering what happened to you does not make you a liar.

This is a crime with an epidemic of unreported victims. Most victims (including myself) never see a trial. An even lower number see a conviction.


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