Saturday, November 03, 2007

Court Rulings About Absent Rape Victims

First from a North County Times article:

Sexual assault victims who live outside of California can be taken into custody and brought to the state to make sure they appear in court to testify if they are necessary witnesses, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday. A three-judge panel of the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego made that decision in a 25-page ruling that overturned the rape convictions of a San Marcos man who was sentenced to 105 years to life in prison for those crimes.

If this ruling stands then the state of California needs to pay for all costs associated with a victim returning to California in order to testify, including reimbursement for lost wages. Sending a plane ticket isn't enough. Sexual assault victims who don't have the financial or emotional resources to make a long-distance trip (possibly to discover that there has been a postponement) shouldn't be punished, they should be helped.

Then there is the issue of safety which can be a huge deterrent which is made worse if the victim believes that the criminal justice system is likely to fail. That means that ensuring safety through the end of the trial may not be sufficient.

Helping victims is cheaper than snatching them from their homes and treating them in a way most rape defendants never get treated because their rights are clear and enforceable.

Next from an Akron Beacon Journal article:

A Summit County rape case is scheduled to go to trial Monday on the strength of statements by the accuser — but not the accuser herself.

Ann Mazurek, 30, died from a seizure in February 2004 before the man accused of raping her could stand trial, but in a 4-3 decision last November, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Mazurek's statements to police and hospital personnel were admissible in court.

The case is fraught with a constitutional issue of such magnitude, defense lawyer Brian M. Pierce said, that it could wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court if the government prevails at the county level.

Defendant James G. Stahl, 43, had his case put on hold in August 2004 — six months after Mazurek's death — when a judge ruled that Stahl's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser would be violated by allowing prosecutors to substitute the statements Mazurek gave to a nurse during a hospital exam in December 2003 on the day after the alleged rape.

The defense attorney wants all criminals in the USA who intentionally rape people who are near death or in bad physical or mental health to be set free if the victim dies before trial. This would put a bulls eye on the most vulnerable members of our society.

This goal has nothing to do with ensuring reasonable constitutional protections and everything to do with getting the best outcome for rape defendants. Even in cases with clear DNA evidence linking the defendant to a crime, the elimination of the victim's testimony means that the defense can claim consent without having clearly contradictory testimony presented.

If this ruling were overturned, it would eliminate testimony from all criminal trials, not just rape trials so those who support this defense attorney's position because they view alleged rape victims as unreliable, but who don't view those who have been shot or stabbed as unreliable will be advocating for the suppression of testimony by victims who later died from their injuries.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:14 AM   0 comments links to this post

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