Thursday, June 21, 2007

Defense Attorneys Like Canaries In The Mines

In my post Stranger rapist: she didn't say no TRVolk commented that the defense attorney was just doing her job and might not enjoy putting forth the defense she's using and so we should wait to see if the jury buys the defense strategy and then get mad.

For me the bottom line isn't about being mad at defense attorneys, it's about highlighting the full impact of ideas that many people put forth carelessly.

The people who put forth these ideas (it can't be rape if she didn't say no, it can't be rape if there was no gun or knife, it can't be rape if the victim climaxes, it can't be rape if the victim didn't physically struggle, and so on and so forth) are usually trying to excuse the behavior of people they don't find repugnant and who they don't think should be considered guilty of any crime.

But excuses once accepted don't limit themselves to the otherwise upstanding teenage boy accused of raping his girlfriend. They propagate to people whose surrounding actions make the idea's proponents sick. This propagation is natural and shows how dangerous the original ideas really are. This propagation also proves that the original premise is false in all cases -- even the ones involving otherwise upstanding teenage boys.

If the defendant in the case underway now had knocked on the door without the mask and the victim had opened the door, the crime would be the same but many people wouldn't be able to perceive it that way since to them it can't be rape if the victim gave the rapist access. Instead of focusing on the rape, they would be saying about the victim, "What did she think would happen when she opened the door for a man like that?"

Like the saying about people who are not able to see the forest for all the trees, they are not able to see the rape for all excuses.

The smarter rapists are going to take notice and modify their MO accordingly. When these rapists are the darling of those who pride themselves for defending those falsely accused of rape, these rapists likely will enjoy feeling more powerful than their stupid defenders. But they will use their defenders just like they used their rape victims.

Many times the excuse is that certain rapes aren't harmful and therefore don't justify criminal consequences for the rapist. We see this often when defense attorneys refer to the duration of the rape when a videotape is used as evidence. "The whole thing took only 10 minutes."

The flaw here is that many murders and gun crimes only take a second as the defendant squeezes the trigger. If we think about it fully we will realize that a crime which took one hundred times longer doesn't automatically become worthy of one hundred times the punishment of the briefer crime.

What many defenders of these excuses forget is that in criminal trials many of repugnant surrounding details are not admissible evidence or they are disputed by the defense. The disputed details are where all the unfounded claims like "almost 50 percent of women who report being raped are lying about having been raped" do their intended dirty work.

What we accept as stranger rape can get spun by the defense attorney into a consensual and possibly kinky encounter between strangers. He didn't kick the door in. There's no proof he was wearing a ski mask. She asked to have that slip put around her head. All real rape victims immediately call 911.

So often the goal is to get jurors to a point where they mistake being spun around, possibly on tiny and meaningless details, for having reasonable doubt.

So while this and other defense attorneys are doing their jobs, watching how defense attorneys try to get acquittals for defendants who are obviously guilty tells us a lot about pervasive and dangerous attitudes which allow rapists to justify their actions and which allow rapists to escape justice.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:01 PM   0 comments links to this post

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