Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Legal Shenanigans: How to Blame That Lying Whore

As a pre-law student and a feminist, the antics of defense attorneys in rape trials is always of particular interest. I've been sitting on these stories for about a week now, formulating my response. Without further ado, a glimpse inside how the American legal system dispenses justice to those lying sluts and the poor slandered men:

1. Ask trick questions

From abyss2hope:

''Did you have sexual intercourse with Mr. Vanderbeek?'' [defense attorney Maureen] Coggins asked the alleged victim. She replied that she had not.

Coggins then asked that the charges be dismissed. Greth denied the motion. Coggins then asked that the alleged victim take the stand again for a clarification. The alleged victim then testified that she had engaged in sexual intercourse, but that it was not consensual.

First of all, rape is not sexual intercourse. I would hope that a defense attorney would be aware of this fact. Doubtless, Coggins was aiming for a dismissal regardless of the answer. If she had said yes, then the term "sexual intercourse" implies consent. When she said no, that implies—falsely and only to someone with no legal training or common sense—that no penetration took place (which is doubly absurd, because many forms of sexual abuse do not require vaginal penetration). The only dismissal that I think would be appropriate in this instance is the dismissal of Coggins from her job.

2. Ban the use of the word "rape"

If I thought that the above was horrible, I was sorely mistaken when I discovered via Jezebel and Shakesville that if you have a vagina, and someone sticks a penis in it without your permission, you are not allowed to call that "rape" in a courtroom lest you bias the poor stupid jurors:

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order.

This boggles the mind. How else are you supposed to describe the crime committed against you on the stand? This kind of shit is akin to an assault case in which the witness is forced to say that he "accepted a fist offered to my face" instead of "the defendant punched me". Witnesses and victims are supposed to testify honestly and completely to the best of their abilities. Banning the use of the only word that describes what happened is absolutely ludicrous, and not only implies that the defendant had consensual sex, but also that the witness is lying. Which brings me to my next point:

3. Force victims to perjure themselves to protect rapists

Using "sexual intercourse" to describe rape is completely inaccurate because it misses an extremely relevant point: the lack of consent. Defense attorneys are not required to use the term "rape", so why are prosecuting attorneys finding that they must use a term that implies no crime took place?

Simple: because in the minds of rape apologist judges, no crime took place. The only crime is that some disgusting whore is out to ruin a poor upstanding boy's life for her shame over giving it up too soon. The best way to make sure that the jurors understand the horrible crime that is being perpetuated against the innocent victim of a liar is to require the "liar" to use a term that implies consent, which then implies that she filed a false report.

Of course, to anyone with half a brain, this method of victim blaming is called perjury and is extremely and blatantly illegal. Like I said above, if defense lawyers and judges are not willing to conduct trials without a working knowledge of the nuances of the English language and the crime they are discussing, they should be disbarred.

4. Load the jury pool

Via The Curvature's coverage of how a defense attorney selected his jurors:

“Would you take into consideration that none of these young women, when they were removed from the situation, called 911?” he asked a potential juror. Parrinello asked other potential jurors if they would consider that there were “no eyewitnesses” and “no DNA” and that none of the alleged victims had gone to the hospital to have what’s called a “rape kit” examination for signs of assault and evidence.

[District attorney] Tantillo, meanwhile, asked potential jurors if they would consider that the girls might have been too scared to immediately report what had happened to them or even confused.

Parrinello later asked the panel of potential jurors: “Does anybody know what’s so confusing about whether or not you’ve been raped?”

Hey, I might be new to this legal game, but I'm pretty certain you can be disbarred for loading the jury in a case against a Muslim with jurors that are blatantly and unashamedly racist. The same principle should, but doesn't, apply to rape trials: you don't load the jury pool with jurors that have ignorant assumptions about rape and rape victims.

5. Question the testimony with medieval assumptions about intercourse and scare the jury

Parrinello is expected to crack away at the alleged victims’ credibility, drawing attention to the fact that three of them had consensual sexual relations with Wido before the alleged attacks. “How do you know any of them said ‘no’?” he said.

The defense attorney pointed out that the women were slow in notifying authorities and said there is no DNA evidence or eyewitnesses, “no credible evidence.” He asked the jury: “Is this a rush to judgment? Is this a slanted prosecution? Is this a Duke lacrosse prosecution?”

A good defense attorney would attempt to prove that the sexual encounter in question was consensual. Parrinello, however, goes for the tried and true, "once consensual, always consensual" tactic. I remain completely unaware of any sort of legal statute that states once I have sex with someone, I am not allowed to withdraw or withhold consent for the rest of my natural life. The assumption Parrinello makes here harkens back to a not-so-distant past in which men owned their wives because they had consummated their marriage. Since marriage is not a precursor to sex today, apparently a man does not have to buy a shiny bobble before he claims ownership over her body forevermore. All he has to do is get her to consent to sex once!

If the jury was not taken in by the throwback reference to the fact that women are property, they must be scared into submission by reference to the Duke lacrosse prosecution. To this day, I am not entirely certain that the Duke lacrosse players were innocent or guilty. As Cara over at The Curvature says, the Duke case has become the new "women are lying whores!" rallying cry. What a reference like this does is circumvent the question of the accused's innocence or guilt. It plays upon the jury's hesitance to wrap their minds around the fact that such a popular, attractive, white athlete could commit such a crime. It also asks, "are you willing to ruin this guy's life just because he probably raped someone?" After all, sports before justice. A man's right to rape and play sports is always more important than a woman's right to say no and seek justice.

6. Just plain harass and verbally abuse the victims

If all of the above fails—which it probably will not—the defense attorney can just become a pedantic asshat to make sure that all rape victims know what awaits them lest they seek justice (via MPN Now):

While the prosecution witness — one of Wido’s three alleged rape victims — was still seated, the argument began, with Parrinello at one point highlighting previous testimony that she had willingly performed a sexual act on Wido in the weeks before the alleged rape — only Parrinello used crude, street language to describe the act, drawing out both Tantillo and the judge, William Kocher.

“What Mr. Parrinello just did was outrageous in the presence of this witness!” Tantillo shouted, calling it “abusive,” “harassing,” and “disgusting.”

Parrinello fired back, “You know that’s what happened — I’m not making it up… I have a right of free speech.”

Parrinello then briskly approached the judge, coming within a few feet of his bench and pointing his finger while defending his actions. A security guard rushed to Parrinello’s side.

“I want him away from me,” Parrinello told the judge of the guard. Then Parrinello pointed at the guard, face to face, and hollered, “You’re not to get near me.”

Parrinello then told the judge: “He’s not going to intimidate me. If he does it again, we’re going to have a big problem: I’ll have him arrested.”

Judge Kocher ordered the defense attorney not to “make such editorial comments” and asked him several times if he understood. Repeatedly, Parrinello told the judge that no, he did not.

Amid the fiery exchange of words, the alleged rape victim began to wipe tears from her eyes, eventually breaking into sobs. The young woman was led out of the courtroom by Sarah Utter, the victim and witness advocate from the D.A.’s office.

The best way to shut those uppity women up is to be a violent loud jerk and reduce her to tears. Threatening judges and guards is also highly effective. Nothing feels better to a woman reliving her rape through testimony than a defense attorney that describes you and the situation as vulgarly as possible, and then lambastes from his arrogant soapbox about his right to be an abusive moron. Which, of course, would be:

7. Defend your antics with the highly ironic appeal to the First Amendment

I hope you caught that bolded passage in the quote above. Parrinello thinks that he has more of a right to the First Amendment than the victim. Oh the appalling irony! Why is it that when I see someone invoke the First Amendment, they are nearly always white men defending their right to be pedantic abusive asshats? I have a shocking idea: how about we use the First Amendment to protect the victims from perjury instead of defending an egomanic defense attorney?

And so, there you have it, the reason why only 16% of rapes are reported to the police, 8% of reported rapes are deemed unfounded (not false, but not prosecutable), less than half of those arrested for rape see trial, 54% of rape trials end in dismissal or acquittal, 21% of convicted rapists never serve time, and 24% of the convicted receive less than 11 months behind bars (statistics from Rochester University).

Considering that only 2-3% of reports are fabricated—a statistic no different from the false reporting rate of other crimes—there is a very large chance, almost an inevitability, that if you rape a woman she won't report it. If she reports it, it probably won't see trial. If it goes to trial, you probably won't get convicted. If you get convicted, you probably won't serve any time at all, or less than 11 months. Which means that in the eyes of the law, a convicted rapist is less guilty than a robber, a burglar, a drug addict, a drug dealer, and anyone who misuses a weapon for whatever reason; all of which receive more time on average than a convicted rapist.

This is how the justice system treats a rape victim: it looks for any and all excuse to discredit her and drag her name through the mud. In the end, if she perseveres, defies the odds, and gets a conviction, she probably could be rubbing elbows with her rapist in less than a year's time.

In this patriarchy, raping a woman is more excusable than stealing a television. Which leads me to conclude that not only has the justice system, by its actions, defined women as property, that they also think of them as particularly useless property at that. Considering that women/property may be raped without much of a fuss from the legal system, I do not think it illogical of me to say that not only does the legal system regard women as property, it also implies by the reality of the extremely low rape conviction that the purpose of a woman is to be abused at will.

1 comment:

L said...

Awesome post. And I'm glad to have found your blog. I'll be back!