Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Selective Fifth Amendment Rights When It Comes To Rape

This case raises interesting legal issues.

There's mixed reaction in Connecticut's legal community over a state prosecutor's request to have a former teacher take out a newspaper ad saying she falsely accused a colleague of raping her. Prosecutor Adam Scott proposed the action earlier this month in Manchester Superior Court in the case of former East Hartford Middle School teacher Angela Schmidt.

For anyone who thinks this is a grand idea, you must also support requiring all those accused of sex offenses who take plea deals to make the same sort of admission. A Minnesota Supreme Court ruling recently overturned a policy of requiring convicted sex offenders to admit guilt in order to avoid additional prison time.

One of the problems with this requirement, other than 5th amendment issues, is that like in cases where someone is accused of rape, people can decide to take a plea deal when they don't believe they can prove their innocence.

I don't know if she recanted her accusation, but just as confessions of rape can be coerced so can recanting of allegations.

This story has more details about the case:

Police said middle school Principal Catherine Carbone told them during the
investigation that the other teacher came to her and said he was having an
affair with Schmidt. He told Carbone that when he tried to break off the
relationship in March, Schmidt became angry and threatened to ruin his career, police said.

It looks like this case came down to who the police decided to believe. One problem with that is that just because someone confesses something to a third party doesn't mean that all the details of the confession are true.

If someone did cross the line into illegal behavior and fears that this behavior will be reported to the police it makes perfect sense to preemptively create a counter narrative to make a real crime victim look the real criminal or to make a real victim look mentally unbalanced. That means this testimony by the principal cannot be seen as proof of a false accusation.

As recent exonerations have shown, the police and prosecutors can get it completely wrong. To assume that this only happens to alleged rapists is naive at best.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:53 PM   1 comments links to this post


At July 24, 2007 2:22 PM, Blogger sailorman said...


And being a legal sort, I see something even worse about this: What the fuck does it matter what the police think?

The police are not necessarily idiots. But they're sure as hell not judges. Their job is to collect information and collect statements. Their job is not to reach legal-conclusion-with-consequences.

Cops get it wrong all the time. That's what the courts are FOR; if cops were infallible then we'd only need sentencing hearings.


This is actually pretty different from the Minnesota case, in a legal sense. That case, if I recall, hinged on the state's conditioning additional prison time on the admission of guilt after the trial and conviction had already occurred.

This is more similar to judges who have people wear billboards saying "I stole," etc.

I don't approve of this. But then again I don't approve of the billboards either.


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