Kathy Lette experience of being juror in a rape trial

(26 Posts)
CFSKate Sun 10-Aug-14 07:08:23

Good grief. She's right, but I wonder how the hell the other members of the jury that freed Kirk Reid feel. The judge should have been shot.

How dare he say there was no evidence? I hope the trial for mortgage fraud put paid to his judicial career, even if the jury did fail to agree on a verdict.

CKDexterHaven Mon 11-Aug-14 02:57:03

She seems to be saying that she believed the victim but delivered a 'not guilty' verdict because the defence barrister was more eloquent than the prosecution barrister, and talks as if finding a verdict is more about rewarding the barrister than delivering justice. The judge was disgraceful but if Kathy Lette believed the victim why didn't she stand up for her at the time?

BreakWindandFire Mon 11-Aug-14 11:45:35

It's a rewrite of an article for the Guardian in 2010 which is a bit clearer. The impression I got from the original was that it was a majority verdict rather than unanimous and Lette was for conviction.

Territt16 Mon 11-Aug-14 17:56:05

Not really sure you can find someone guilty when its just one persons word?

alAswad Mon 11-Aug-14 18:34:10

Territt without wanting to say too much I have been on a jury who came to a guilty verdict (in a fairly similar-sounding case) on one person's word. It basically came down to the defendant changing his story several times between the initial police interview and cross-examination. I imagine that had he been better prepared it would be very difficult for the prosecution to obtain a conviction, though - as it was it took six hours to reach a verdict, and even then it was only by a 10-2 majority.

In cases like that I think it's not normally a question of the claimant not being believed but of the fact that it's not possible to be absolutely sure that the alleged assailant is guilty - it may well have been that everyone thought he'd very probably done it, but that wouldn't be enough to convict. I think it's very difficult though as obviously the claimant doesn't get to hear the deliberations, so all she sees is 12 (or 11) people saying 'not guilty', and it sounds like they've all decided she must be lying. I'm not really sure what can be done about that, other than maybe raising awareness of how few false allegations actually occur, never mind making it to court.

Territt - the jury decides whether the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt. That decision can be based on witness evidence. For instance, if the witness is compelling, appears truthful to the jury, their account is consistent and stacks up and the defendant's does not.

spiderswilldescend Mon 11-Aug-14 22:03:57

Are you allowed to talk publicly and identifiably about a case if you've been a juror? I thought that was one of the things you were warned about?

I've never known a journalist or writer who didn't get knocked back at the selection stage actually.

You can't talk about it during the trial in case anyone tries to influence your verdict. Once the trial is over you can discuss anything which was said in the courtroom (it's all in the public domain anyway, anyone can be in the public gallery) but nothing of the discussions between the jurors while they decide on their verdict.

stubbornstains Mon 11-Aug-14 22:11:31

The terrible, woeful rate of rape convictions in this country really needs to be talked about more.

But what really struck me on clicking the link to this article on the DM site was the crass and striking incongruity of the sidebar of shame next to something like this.....sad

alAswad Tue 12-Aug-14 11:40:29

spiders it's possible that they didn't recognise her? I don't think I'd heard of her before reading this article. And I imagine she/the paper probably took legal advice before the article was published, but this:

"Our jury room movie would have been called One Angry Woman and 11 Irritated People Who Want Lunch. Jury secrecy laws forbid me from saying more than that the judge's instructions must have reverberated in the minds of my fellow jurors."

must be very close to the line, I would have thought... to me that's a strong implication (at least) of who voted which way and also suggesting that the other jurors weren't taking the case seriously.

alAswad Tue 12-Aug-14 11:40:43

Sorry, that's from the Guardian article - I haven't read the other.

spiderswilldescend Tue 12-Aug-14 17:54:44

alAswad - they ask your occupation though. I've been knocked back every time.

You're right - irrespective of the details of the case, what she writes is very close to the wind. I'm sure it's been legalled aplenty, but I'm still slightly uncomfortable. Maybe I'm being unfair - she writes very fluffy, over-punned, chick lit and perhaps I can't get past that. The subject is one that is so important and I feel it's treated a bit too Lette-light in parts.

alAswad Tue 12-Aug-14 18:25:13

Really? I had to state my occupation at the beginning (for the expenses claims I think) but as far as I was aware it wasn't passed on to the counsel. When did you do your jury service? Mine was very recently so maybe it's changed?

I haven't read her other stuff but I also felt uncomfortable when I read that part. For one thing, it would be horrible were the victim to read that and feel that people hadn't been taking the deliberations seriously. I don't think it's very encouraging in terms of other victims coming forward either, to give that impression - it's one thing knowing that not many cases result in a conviction, but worrying that the jury would just be irritated by your case because it was keeping them in over their lunch break would make things so much worse imo.

I don't think I was asked my occupation either time apart from the expenses thing, I guess they check a few of those out to prevent false claims.

Yes that bit about the jury room is a bit close to revealing all about the deliberations.

CrotchMaven Tue 12-Aug-14 18:51:23

This is why challenging rape myths, having discussions about consent and spreading factual information about law regarding sexual offences is so important.

Every person whose erroneous beliefs are changed are potential jurors. As are those whose beliefs remain unchallenged.

hackmum Tue 12-Aug-14 20:46:38

"Not really sure you can find someone guilty when its just one persons word?"

And this, of course, is what gives rapists licence to rape time and time again, particularly vulnerable people such as those with learning difficulties or the elderly.

Liveinthepresent Tue 12-Aug-14 20:56:25

I hope I am ok to say this - I have been a juror on a rape trial and I was so worried that the others may not agree with my certainty that the defendant was guilty. The judge gave us very precise details of what constitutes rape which several jurors admitted to not knowing beforehand and they were prepared to be open minded and we got a guilty verdict.
It was a very positive experience that restored my faith in human nature and justice a lot.
If anyone thinks I shouldn't say this please report my post or tell me !!

CaptChaos Tue 12-Aug-14 21:29:50

Not really sure you can find someone guilty when its just one persons word?

How many witnesses do you think you should have? Presumably, if he digitally raped her, then he would have some of her DNA on his fingers or clothes, but, that rather relies on the Police collecting that evidence, doesn't it?

We spend so long deciding whether or not there has even been a crime when it comes to rape or sexual assault, that proving whether or not the defendant did it becomes slightly academic. You wouldn't expect someone who was mugged to be have to produce signed witness statements from people to prove he had been mugged, but prosecution have to jump through hoops to prove that any crime has taken place at all.

spiderswilldescend Tue 12-Aug-14 21:38:15

It was about 6 years ago, so maybe things have changed - was in Scotland too so perhaps that makes a difference?

I feel very uncomfortable that someone else has chosen to take the woman's experience, yet again, and mould it into something that she has, yet again, had no control over.

When I was knocked back - more than once - I did think it was ridiculous that they were doing so just because of my job. Reading this, I'm not so sure.

alAswad Wed 13-Aug-14 03:11:37

Liveinthepresent that was exactly my experience too (it wasn't rape but a similar type of crime iyswim). The days of the trial and deliberations were quite honestly some of the most stressful of my life, I was so worried that we'd end up delivering the wrong verdict - I can't imagine how much worse it must have been for the victim.

CaptChaos I don't know if your last paragraph is true actually - I was on multiple cases where the defendant was acquitted because there wasn't enough evidence to establish that a crime had taken place, even though it might well have done, and neither was sex-related (in fact one was actually a physical assault similar to a mugging). One of the problems with sex cases is that it's often much harder to obtain evidence beyond the victim's account - even in this case, we don't know that the police didn't try to obtain DNA evidence, but by the time they managed to trace the perpetrator he would have had plenty of time to wash his hands and clothes. In a mugging there's often going to be more circumstantial evidence (photographs of injuries etc), and in any kind of case without that (a mugging using threats rather than actual violence, for example) it's going to be difficult for the prosecution to convince a jury.

When I was on a jury for an assault case I was astounded by how little evidence the police or the prosecution had bothered to collect. For example, the victim said that a certain phone call was made between him and the accused. The accused denied it. No phone records were produced to prove who was telling the truth. I asked if they were available and told no. Surely it can't be hard to get phone records and it was crucial to the case as to whether this phone call had been made or not!

So I'm not surprised to hear that often evidence isn't collected effectively in rape cases.

There was a thread on here a while back, about the "We believe you" campaign, where a lot of people felt that the campaign couldn't be applied to, for instance, a rape trial, because you can't go in as a juror with the pre-conceived notion that the accused was guilty (ie the victim telling the truth). I argued that while of course I would carefully listen to the evidence, if it came down to victim's word vs accused's word, I would always believe the victim. And since the other 11 members of the jury would likely be full of rape myths and blame the victim anyway, I would hardly be likely to be the cause of an innocent man being found guilty.

This opinion was not received well.

I'm not surprised it didn't go down well as you are supposed to decide on the evidence alone and not a preconceived belief that the victim is telling the truth used as a tiebreak. I also don't like the assumption that the other 11 jurors would be full of rape myths and misogyny.. If it comes down to person's word against the other (as was the case on one trial I've served on) you need to justify why you believe one of them based on the evidence, otherwise it isn't beyond reasonable doubt. Unfortunately this leads to a low conviction rate for rape cases.

alAswad Wed 13-Aug-14 13:12:16

I would be more likely to believe the victim too in a case like that (unless they were clearly lying) and would probably argue their side as strongly as I could during deliberations, but if there's no evidence there's no evidence. You can't find someone guilty because you think they probably did a crime, it's just not how our legal system works. Like others above, I was pleasantly surprised to to discover that not one person on my jury (of either gender) was 'full of misogyny and rape myths' - people had differing opinions on the guilt of the accused but it was based on the evidence rather than preconceptions.

And unless I had a spectacularly crap set of trials (which is possible, I was only on a few after all) I was shocked at how little effort either side seemed to put into collecting evidence and/or cross-examination in all cases. The sex-related one was probably the best of mine actually, although that wasn't saying much - it was the only one where there was nothing obvious that everyone seemed to be ignoring despite the fact that it would have clearly been a huge help to the case on one side or the other.

The court process was clearly incredibly harrowing for the victim, and it was horrible to watch, but I can safely say that based on my experience I would be far, far more likely to report any sexual violence that happened to me than I would have before the trial, when I was convinced that no-one would take me seriously and it would be impossible to get a conviction. I think it's important to get the good stories out there too, not just the ones that might lead people to believe they shouldn't report rape/assault cases because it's hopeless anyway.

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