Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why I'm Not Eating Crow Over the Duke Case

I've been getting snarky comments about how the North Carolina AG's press conference should have me eating crow over the Duke lacrosse rape case. There's a simple reason I'm not doing so.

My objections from the first have been to the still unproven allegations that this case was definitely a hoax and that the woman couldn't have been raped because of her job and her personal history.

The defendants in this case have had strong attorneys looking out for their best interests so I've had little concern that they would be falsely convicted. I also had little faith that if they were guilty that they would be rightfully convicted because of mistakes made by DA Nifong and because of aggressive and sometimes unethical techniques used by defense teams to undermine the credibility of alleged rape victims.

Being a dancer or a stripper or having a criminal history or being incoherent when questioned or anything else doesn't magically put a bubble around a woman that no rapist can violate. Yet many people continue to talk as if this were a law of nature as sure as gravity and that the case didn't need to be investigated at all. Her identity was enough for them to decide: rape case closed. False police report case also closed but with the alleged victim labeled as guilty.

Allowing this "she was just a 'ho" argument to stand unchallenged is the same as giving rapists a list of who can be raped without fear of prosecution.

That is what was behind all the protests these people found so abhorrent. How dare any Duke faculty member demand a thorough and careful investigation of the rape and kidnapping allegations when the alleged victim is a woman like this.

I believed then and I believe now that thorough and careful investigations of all rape allegations and ethical behavior by competent and ethical professionals benefit both the legal rights of alleged victims and alleged rapists. The assumption by investigators that all first-hand reports of rape are accurate -- unless and until evidence comes in showing that the allegations are false (not just unprovable) -- doesn't violate defendant rights or the legal concept of innocent until proven guilty.

The assumption of alleged victim accuracy doesn't equal charges or convictions. It doesn't change who has the burden of proof in a criminal trial. An assumption is not evidence.

Investigators who go with their gut that a rape allegation is false or who aggressively challenge alleged victims are setting themselves up for making false claims against real rape victims such as the case described in the book Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders. These gut feelings and hostility toward alleged victims can lead to false charges against real rape victims in cases where this is enough evidence to convict the rapist.

Despite what many people allege about me, I don't support rape convictions based on gut feelings and assumptions about the defendant or defendants. It's all about the evidence. The initial report is part of the evidence but it isn't the totality of evidence.

Sometimes all the evidence available -- with nothing falsified by the alleged victim -- is insufficient to prove rape to a jury. I believe that to be what has happened in the Duke case. No evidence which has been made public and nothing the AG said in his press conference contradicts this belief.

Other people look at the same evidence and have come to different conclusions based on that evidence. This just highlights that the evidence has gaps and flaws which different people fill in according to their beliefs and experiences.

In the Duke case, the initial scenario laid out by the hoax fanatics was that the 2 dancers plotted false charges, including planting evidence in the house, and went to the cops to relate their carefully laid out false allegation. That this scenario was easily disproved didn't matter to these people at all. They just came up with the "she arrived raped" scenario and then decided it would be fun to pin that rape on these innocent men. If, as people are now saying, she wasn't raped at all, then this scenario is as false as the first one. But then the conclusion of hoax came before the evidence so this isn't surprising.

My belief is that to most of these pro-hoax people, the Duke lacrosse players are little more than a handy tool used to support their frequent allegations that most women lie about rape and that we should go back to the good old days when the only real rape victim was dead or maimed-- or as one man wrote when describing what happens in real rapes: vivisection.

Some of these people seemed downright eager for a false conviction to further their parallels between the lacrosse players and the Scottsboro boys. Their apparent goal was to prove that the tables of injustice have been turned against all white men. Many of these people used the phrase "lynch mobs" to describe everyone who didn't agree that these men were the powerless victims of a hoax and a completely corrupt system.

I don't see anyone dragging these men into the streets and publicly murdering them to the cheers of a crowd. They weren't lynched when the case first went public and they won't be lynched. I doubt that fact will stop some people from saying that's what happened when people protested against rape and demanded justice on the Duke University campus.

When I've said that I won't believe there was a hoax until there is evidence of a hoax beyond a reasonable doubt I've gotten complaints about how impossibly hard this is to prove and how because it's so so hard, we should all now just accept it without proof.

No will do.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:01 AM   0 comments links to this post


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