If I Were On The Jury, I’d Vote Not Guilty

EDITED TO ADD: Please consider this entire post withdrawn. I deeply regret writing it. I’m leaving it below the fold, for posterity.

[Crossposted to TADA and ALAS. If you're an MRA, "feminist critic" or anti-feminist, I'd prefer that you not post on the ALAS thread, but you may post on the TADA thread.]

From the New York Times:

Investigators with the Manhattan district attorney’s office learned the call had been recorded and had it translated from a “unique dialect of Fulani,” a language from the woman’s native country, Guinea, according to a well-placed law enforcement official.

When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

This is not proof that she wasn’t raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I can easily imagine that a woman who was genuinely raped by a wealthy man might want to get paid off. All sorts of people get raped, saints and sinners and ordinary folks alike.

I can also easily imagine a genuine rape victim who had told many or most of the lies that this woman apparently told. She’s far from the only person who’s ever lied on an immigration form; people who lie on immigration forms can be raped. She did her job, including cleaning Strauss-Kahn’s room, before telling anyone that she had been assaulted. I don’t find it at all difficult to imagine that a rape victim would do that, and lie about it afterward, worried that having acted that way would make her true story seem less credible.

I don’t think anything that’s come up proves that Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not rape his accuser. I suspect he did, frankly. And I definitely don’t want to sign on to a standard that effectively says that an accuser needs to be a saint who has never told a lie in her life, before she can be believed.

However, our justice system rightly has a very high bar for finding criminal guilt. And if I were on a jury, from the evidence that’s been published in the Times today, I’d have to say that there was reasonable doubt. And if the DA decides not to bring this case to trial, that seems reasonable to me, too.1

Before these latest developments came out, Jill wrote:

But I have a hard time believing that a woman with the exact same past would be considered too lacking in credibility had she accused someone of robbing her apartment or mugging her or beating her up. I have a hard time believing that if a man was punched in the face by a stranger on the street that prosecutors would drop the case if it came to light that the victim had cheated on his taxes seven years ago.

I think we’ve now passed the threshold Jill suggests. If a man had accused another man of assault, and was recorded telling a friend “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,” that wouldn’t be proof that he wasn’t actually punched in the face. (Profiteers can be punched in the face just like anyone else.) But it would be reasonable doubt, in my opinion.

So what if there was never a rape? Then Strauss-Kahn has suffered a monstrous injustice. But the system worked. The cops and prosecution took the accusation seriously, investigated, and then decided there wasn’t enough evidence. That’s the system working, and it doesn’t do much of anything to mitigate the suffering of people who are falsely accused. Which sucks.

And what if Strauss-Kahn did rape this woman? Then she has suffered a monstrous injustice, and it’s going to get even worse for her now that so many people are convinced that she’s a false accuser. And the system probably didn’t work very well. It’s a sad truth that the system will probably never work well, when it comes to prosecuting rapists. It’s too easy for rapists to lie, and to choose victims who will not be found credible. Which sucks.

I’m also worried that if Strauss-Kahn’s accuser is deported because of all this — which could happen regardless of if she was raped — this case is going to have a profound “chilling effect” on rape victims who are immigrants, who will now be more afraid of talking to the police. Which sucks.

In short, no matter what really happened in that hotel room, this case is suck piled on top of suck.

Not really much more to say about it than that.

  1. Going by the evidence that’s been published in the media. Of course, it’s possible that there’s more evidence that hasn’t been reported on, and it’s also possible that media reports haven’t been accurate. []
This entry posted in crossposted on TADA, In the news, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

17 Responses to If I Were On The Jury, I’d Vote Not Guilty

  1. 1
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’d like a doublecheck on the translation. That’s an area where it’s easy to make mistakes. Connotations matter.

  2. 2
    mythago says:

    OK, while I agree with the header, this doesn’t make sense.

    Right now there is a presumption of innocence, not reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is what the jury may decide exists after hearing all the evidence, which we haven’t heard. We’ve heard third-hand accounts of what some of the evidence is – that’s it. So sure, if the Angel of Prosecution swooped down on me right now and said “You’re the jury – guilty or not guilty?” I’d immediately vote not guilty, because I have not seen the government provide a case against him.

    The problem the prosecution faces is this: even assuming the accuser is 100% truthful about what happened, she lied about other things, the defense is consent rather than whether sex happened, DSK has excellent defense attorneys, the burden of proof is heavily on the government and it’s an uphill battle to get past the prejudices of the jury in any case.

  3. 3
    Sebastian H says:

    This case looks doomed, even if he did rape the woman. Many rape cases ultimately come down to the victim’s allegation of lack of consent. The defense is going to make her credibility look bad at this point, and it is going to suck. There was a high chance that the high powered defense he was hiring could have made her look bad even if she had done nothing suspicious in her past (smear the victim is always a popular defense). But at this point it appears she has already done their job for them. Unless something else comes up there will be no way to avoid “reasonable doubt”. This isn’t the same as exoneration. There still is plenty of good evidence that he raped her at this point. It just isn’t going to cross the threshold of reasonable doubt.

  4. 4
    Simple Truth says:

    I wish there were a narrative in the newsmedia that was more along the lines of, “What was he doing sleeping with housekeeping? Why is a well-to-do hotel guest taking advantage of the power differential and sleeping with a woman he doesn’t know? What kind of terrible morals does this man have to sleep around like that?”
    Maybe it’s reverse slut-shaming, but it’s better than heaping the blame on this woman before we know what’s really going on. After all, shouldn’t someone in that position of power know better? /snark

  5. 5
    james says:

    [Comment deleted. This is a feminists only comments discussion; you may post your comment on TADA, if you want. --Amp]

  6. 6
    Josh says:

    What Nancy said. If the maid was telling her friend, “Don’t worry that this guy has a lot of money: I know what I’m doing,” the implications are very different.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Nancy (and Josh), point well taken.

  8. 8
    Sebastian says:

    Pff, what are you guys, saints? I’d vote guilty in a second. If I had to say what I think most likely, it’s that he did not rape this particular woman, I think that he showed willing, and she went for it, possibly with a law suit in mind.

    On the other hand, I am positive that he has a history of abuse, and that he is a total asshole. Is the justice system so just and pure and clean that I should refrain from using it for my own purposes?

    I’d vote guilty with both hands even though I think he is innocent in this particular case. Hell, I’m sure that if the jury is as well stacked as it was in OJ’s case, he would get convicted.

    — I’m signing this as a pro-feminist, not as a feminist. Mostly because I am not sure what exactly makes a feminist, but I find most feminists OK, which should make me pro-them —

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    This right here is why the only people I have ever told were anonymous people on the internet. And I’m a young, able-bodied, “normal” weight, middle class White girl, so I can’t imagine what kind of agony it must be for women who don’t have all the privilege I do.

    This sends out a message to victims not to talk, but what also worries me is that it sends out a message to potential rapists as well. Are potential rapists out there getting the message from this that it’s easy to get away with rape? Is this a primer on how to choose your victims wisely to be sure no one will believe them?

  10. 10
    Grace Annam says:

    Sebastian:

    Is the justice system so just and pure and clean that I should refrain from using it for my own purposes?

    You should refrain from using it for your own purposes not because the justice system is just and pure and clean, but because we would like it to be, and you don’t make something cleaner by shitting on it.

    What is the difference between that and a guilty verdict of the sort depicted in _To Kill a Mockingbird_?

    What is the difference between that and a police officer planting evidence to nail a drug dealer, even if she can’t prove that this particular drug dealer committed a crime?

    Grace

  11. 11
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    I am unavoidably reminded of Thurber’s “Trial of the Old Watchdog.” Only from the other side. I can all too easily imagine someone in DSK’s position doing something like this, particularly someone with his history, and I hope the stigma remains even if the charges don’t stick.

  12. 12
    mythago says:

    Shit, why even bother having a justice system in the first place? We all know DSK’s an asshole, so let’s just skip the whole trial nonsense. /eyeroll

  13. 13
    Sebastian H says:

    Just want to be super clear that there are two Sebastians here.

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  16. 14
    Maia says:

    I disagree with your interpretation about the implications of the phone call as the NYT’s originally printed it. But that translation/edit of the phone call was a misrepresentation: http://jezebel.com/5825446/recordings-prove-dsk-accuser-never-said-she-wanted-money

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