Remark by the defending barrister in a recent acquaintance rape trial(18 Posts)
I was wondering if anyone else feels concerned, as I do, by certain comments made by the defending barrister in the recent rape case concerning a girl student whose alleged rapist, who was a fellow student, was acquitted. The barrister told the jury the girl had got back in bed with Sridhar after the alleged rape and, Joe Stone said: 'Surely if she was raped, the last place on earth she would want to return to would be that room.'
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/12172708/Cambridge-student-found-not-guilty-of-rape.html There are also various other newspaper reports of stages of the trial which can be found on-line.
I understand the defending barrister had the duty to use all means at his disposal to get an acquittal for the accused. But allowed clever oratory at any expense aside - on top of the fact that most date rape cases will inevitably end in acquittal - it is chilling that such an erroneous, ill-informed and biased statement, might have added weight to the the jurors' decision and to the already confused public perceptions of rape cases like these.
I am not hoping to restart a discussion as to whether or not the accused was in fact guilty, but to question this remark, 'Surely....':
A victim's actual reaction to rape may be very counter-intuitive for a person who has not experienced it let alone for those who may doubt this sort of rape is rape in the first place.
There is no valid "Surely..." in the sense the barrister meant.
Jill Filpovic's article below paragraph 14 for example points out that rape victims may not react as expected.
In this article even the reaction of going on to have sex with the assailant a later point after the rape is shown to be a possible reaction in order for the victim to feel control. I believe it is also possible for the victim to try to act as if the assailant, who was after all known to her before the rape is in some way a friend so as to try to deny and block out the rape or minimise it. It is also possible for the victim to lose all sense of autonomy or will. I am aware there are three well known reactions to trauma: fight, flight and freezing. This girl may have remain frozen and unable to do anything.
As to all the details of the case it is difficult to be clear, but I believe the girl was in her own room into which the alleged assailant entered too after taking her back home after a night out in the town where they had both been drinking because she was worried about being alone in the town at night. After the alleged rape (presumably having got out of bed at some stage) it was her own bed in her own room she 'went back to'. Far from it being the case that surely this was the last place she would go, in these circumstances it may well be all too likely that this would be what she might do. Where else was she supposed to go other than her own bed? And in what sort of numbed and state of disassociation, or state of exhaustion or state of self blame was she after (allegedly) having been raped?
The next day certainly a friend of hers saw the girl in a terrible state of mind.
Why is it that a court case of this kind can take place without expert third party guidance being given to the judge and jury as to how a rape victim might behave? Instead it would seem that a false premise mooted by the barrister may have tipped the already weighted balance* even further on the side of acquittal.
*It is very difficult for a jury to pass a guilty verdict because there will usually be reasonable doubt in a case like this.
Why is it that a court case of this kind can take place without expert third party guidance being given to the judge and jury as to how a rape victim might behave? Instead it would seem that a false premise mooted by the barrister may have tipped the already weighted balance even further on the side of acquittal.
Presumably, the prosecution could call that expert witness to refute the defence's assertion of how the alleged vitim "should" behave?
I don't disagree with you, OP, I think that there is a need for far more expert evidence to refuse some of the myths, common beliefs and prejudices that are used as defence in many courtrooms; but the current system does provide a system for rebuttal.
I've been in a similar situation - forget fight/flight/freeze, how about 'what the fuck would I do if I left' I've already been assaulted, I'm literally 100s of miles away from anyone that I trust at 2am having been assualted - what exactly are my choices? Get out on the street walking back to my digs in the cold and risk it happening again with a stranger? Hypothermia?
These barristers are for the defense, and I'm not sure how some of them sleep at night with the mis-representation they have to do. In fact, I'm sure that the best of them don't - the only way they get through is by telling themselves that everyone deserves the best defence they can get within the law.
I think it's a failure on the part of the prosecution to refute ideas of how a victim might respond and to anticipate a line of defence.
She wasn't 100 miles away from home. She was in her own university hall of residence. Presumably she knew other people in the hall or if not, then a hall warden or the night porter (I'm talking about my own experience of halls which had wardens and night porters)
The prosecution should have anticipated "why did you not seek help?" /" why did you go back"?. Presumably it's a question the investigating police must have asked and got a satisfactory answer.
I don't really think you can blame the jury for their decision or the defence for raising it.
A campaign for training of specialist prosecutors might be in order. Obviously we don't have anything other than the bare facts but from that I would say it seems an inept prosecution may be to blame.
GreenTomatoJam, I am very sorry indeed this happened to you. Thank you for answering to explain the truth of what it was really like to find yourself in that position and all alone. I hope you found someone to help you at last. I just don't know what to say.
The point I was trying to make was that not all victim's would experience what some else would think is a logical reaction. so that would include not looking for doors to knock on and so on.
I do not blame the jury - how are they necessarily to know what a victim might do? Nor, as the system stands, the defence barrister for doing all he could to gain an acquittal.
I do however feel chilled by how the 'Surely...' sentence came across as quoted in the Telegraph article, apparently appealing as it did to the jurors' common sense when by applying everyday common sense in this context they may well have been mislead. I imagine too the many Telegraph readers 'Thinking, yes indeed... surely that is the last thing she would have done, of course she wasn't raped.' And so a false premise is perpetuated.
Though from the other explanations and yours too, it seems the prosecution could probably have done more to rebut that statement including anticipating that line of defence and calling an expert witness.
I agree the prosecution should have rebutted. They may have done so and the media not quoted it, of course.
Even if she knew others nearby, it's a heck of a thing to knock on someone's door in the middle of the night and explain when you are still processing it. And she may or may not have been believed, the people she knows may know him too etc.
Problem is that prosecutors and expert witnesses called by them are paid for out of the public purse.
There's barely the money to prosecute all the cases that go to court now.
Would society be willing to pay more tax to address this? Probably not.
Agree with Lass. It was the responsibility of the prosecution to raise the points that you made, OP, and the responsibility of the judge to rein in the defence where necessary. I don't think the defence counsel did anything wrong - his job was to do everything in his power to protect the defendant. If I was accused of a crime as serious as rape, I'd expect my lawyer to go all out to defend me.
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