ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- On a cold December night in 2007 four hitchhikers said they got a ride from a strange man. The four women said he put a gun to their head and raped them or tried to rape them.
Airjetis Espinal is charged with raping those four women in less than an hour. He says it was consensual.
The defense is trying to characterize three of the four women in a negative light: one as a drunk, another as a prostitute, and the third as a crack dealer. But the prosecution says that still doesn't explain the rapes.
This case highlights the inherent logical flaws in the common defense strategy which relies on distracting the jury away from the evidence of alleged rapes. The goal of this illogical strategy is to have the jury so focused on dissecting the alleged victim's character or that person's every action or alleged action that the alleged rapist is forgotten or is given the default position of victim.
Because of the multiple victims, the defense attorney doesn't have a cohesive narrative and is figuratively throwing spaghetti everywhere and hoping something sticks-- even if what it sticks to is anti-rape victim bigotry. Every motive for reporting is tossed out except the most logical and most common -- these are all genuine reports by genuine crime victims.
Those who didn't report until Espinal was arrested are attacked by the defense attorney as non-credible but the content of this attack provides credible support for those women's decisions related to reporting.
One of the alleged victims reported being raped several years earlier and the defense is trying to spin a case that wasn't resolved into a proven false report so that again an alleged victim will be positioned as the de facto defendant who should be assumed guilty of being a serial criminal without proof.
If this allegation against one of the alleged victim's is credible then the defense should be required to get the person allegedly falsely accused several years earlier to testify under oath about what happened earlier for this defense allegation to be admissible.
Sometimes the goal of defense attorneys is to have the jury assume that an alleged victim cannot be honest when reporting being the victim of a crime, but more often the goal is more insidious -- and dangerous -- to get the jury to believe that if a rapist picks victims carefully that what otherwise would be a felony should be treated as if it were legal. This is the line of thinking which causes people to talk about the rape of a sex worker of someone who is prostituted as nothing more than theft of services.
When this happens the victim has been stripped of all humanity and is given a lower status than an animal. Once a person is assigned an equal status with a car wash, we have crossed into very dangerous territory.
If we as a society are genuinely against rape we have to be against it no matter who rapists pick as their victims. And that means prosecuting no matter who rapists pick as their victims.
I'm not sure how this defense attorney will try to spin witness testimony about gunfire and man chasing one of the alleged victims, but this spin could work if jurors are only listening until something fits into their bigotry against women who report rape.
The more often defense attorneys succeed at conning juries into acquitting guilty defendants because of bigotry the more harm will be done to defendants who are genuinely innocent. Yet defense attorneys who rely on bigotry rarely get the credit they deserve for the taint left on genuinely innocent rape defendants.
Update (4/15): The defense strategy worked and the jury acquitted Espinal of the rape charges even though they found him guilty of the assault charges. I'm sorry, but this is a common and nonsensical verdict which is based on bigotry in the face of undeniable violence.