Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 4, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

STANDARD OF PROOF....The Oregonian has a story today about a young woman who reported last year that she had been raped by her boyfriend and two other men. However, because of disputes over the facts, prosecutors decided not to charge the men, an action that even the victim's lawyer says he understands. If you don't think you can convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, then you don't go to trial.

But what happened next he doesn't understand: instead of just dropping the case, prosecutors turned around and charged the victim with filing a false statement. On Friday a judge found her guilty. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.

This is obviously pretty troubling. If everyone agrees there were significant disputes over the facts, how was it possible to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman's version of the story was the false one? The Oregonian provides only this brief explanation:

[Judge Peter] Ackerman explained his decision, saying there were many inconsistencies in the stories of the four, but that he found the young men to be more credible. He also said he relied on the testimony of a Beaverton police detective and the woman's friends who said she did not act traumatized in the days following the incident.

That sure doesn't sound like "beyond a reasonable doubt," does it? Phrases like "more credible" combined with specious reasoning like "did not act traumatized" seem more suitable to a civil lawsuit or a dorm room bull session than to a criminal prosecution.

Kevin Hayden, who knows the victim, has more here and here (in comments). Shakespeare's Sister has analysis and reaction here and here.

This prosecution sounds pretty outrageous though it's impossible to say for sure given the small amount of information at hand. I'd sure like to hear more from the judge about exactly what evidence convinced him beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim maliciously made up her story.

Kevin Drum 12:18 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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