justice

Delhi Rape Suspect to be Tried as a Minor

The Juvenile Justice Board has ruled that one of the six men responsible for gang-raping and killing a woman on a bus last month is actually only 17 and must therefore stand trial in a juvenile court.

While this sounds like something that shouldn’t have needed an official ruling, ages in India are not always well-documented:

Although the court based its ruling on the suspect’s school records, its headmaster told BBC Hindi that he could not really be sure of his age.

"There is no concept of producing birth certificates in village schools at the time of admission. People just bring their children and tell us their approximate age.

“We admit a child based on what the parents tell us. We can’t really be sure of his age, but as per the school admission records, he is 17 years and six months old. He could be older than this, but I’m sure he is not younger,” he said.

Based on that evidence, how can he even be sure the suspect is not younger?

In any case, the police plan to challenge this ruling, demanding a bone ossification test as proof of age.

Rape Conviction Reversed Due to Marital Status of Victim

It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s still pretty bad. The man in question, Julio Morales, had sex with a woman (“Jane Doe”) while she was unconscious, so he should have been convicted on the grounds of non-consent. But in addition to making that argument, the prosecution also contended that he had tricked Doe into having sex with him by pretending to be her boyfriend, who had been lying next to her when she fell asleep.

But Morales’ lawyer also claimed that his client hadn’t done anything to trick Jane into thinking she was with her boyfriend, and that California law only explicitly makes it a crime to trick someone into having sex if she believes she’s having sex with her husband. That’s technically true of the law. The judges said that because they couldn’t be sure whether the jury had convicted Morales based on correct theory (that she was unconscious) rather than the incorrect one (he pretended to be someone else), the whole case had to be retried.

Doesn’t it seem like the appeals court could have removed some of the legal weight from this out-of-date law by refusing to apply it so strictly in this case? I’m a huge fan of due process, but this seems a little excessive.

India's Accused Gang Rapists Unable to Find Representation

Police reports revealed today that the six men accused of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student allegedly tried to run over over her after they raped and attacked her with an iron rod. That, on top of worldwide outrage, is making it really tough for these men to find legal representation. “We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend the rape accused as it would be immoral to defend the case,” said Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and a member of the Saket District Bar Council.

This is an interesting ethical situation. I recently had a debate with some friends over whether a court-appointed defender could ethically refuse to lie on behalf of their client. My opinion: yes—all a just society can expect from defense lawyers is that they represent the accused person(s). “Represent” != “Represent with every technique available”. Hypothetically, if I was an Indian lawyer I might take this case in the interest of due process, but I would refuse to misrepresent the facts in the interest of “representing” my clients.

India Gang-Rape Victim Dies

The unnamed girl who was raped repeatedly by six different men then thrown from a moving bus has died of her injuries:

Those men have now been charged with her murder and could face execution. In the 12 days following the attack, the victim was breathing with a ventilator, her intestines were removed, and she suffered a cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure. She had said she wanted to live.

Many are now calling for not only the execution of the perpetrators but an execution sentence for any rapist. I oppose the death penalty, but I sympathize with this mentality. Still, if this tragedy only results in stronger sentencing of rapists, the Indian government will have missed the point.

Falsely Accused Rape Victim Awarded $1.5M Settlement

Sara Reedy was held up by a convenience store robber, who then sexually assaulted her. When she reported the incident, the detective assigned to the case disbelieved her and accused her of robbing the store herself.

Following further inquiries, Reedy was arrested for theft and false reporting and, pregnant with her first child (by her now ex-husband), thrown in jail. She was subsequently released on bail, but lost her job. More than a year after attacking Reedy, the man struck again, but this time he was caught and confessed to the earlier crime.

When the charges against her were dropped, Reedy sued the police and has now won a marathon legal battle and a $1.5m (£1m) settlement against the detective who turned her from victim into accused.

I can totally buy a dishonest employee making up a robbery to cover up her theft, but what possible motivation could she have for also inventing a rape, with all the attendant tribulation that brings?

Via The Frisky.

"The Body Shuts Down"

Scratch another mark on the prison wall for “legitimate rape”. The California Commission on Judicial Performance has voted unanimously to publicly admonish Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson, who, during the trial of a rapist (eventually convicted), said the following:

I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case.

Here’s some Life Advice from your pal Ryan, kids: If you have to preface a remark with “I’m not a [insert title here], but…. ” you should probably, at the very least, refrain from basing important decisions on the next words that come out of your mouth.

Nechemya Weberman Found Guilty of Sexually Abusing Girl He Counseled

Convicted on all 59 counts. Hopefully this forces the Hasidic communities to rethink “private counseling” or at least impose strict oversight and allow police or child protective services to handle accusations like this one.

Via XOJane.

A Wife Accused of War Crimes

The International Criminal Court has indicted Simone Gbagbo, wife of the former president of Ivory Coast on charges of “crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and persecution”. William Burke-White, writing for The Atlantic, explains why this could be a history-making decision:

The indictment is, therefore, an important symbol of unfortunate fact from a humanitarian perspective: women, as well as men, plan and commit horrific acts of violence. While there may be fewer examples of women committing these most heinous crimes, men are not the only ones capable of ordering such brutality. This indictment recognizes that reality and lays a marker that international criminal courts will hold any perpetrator—regardless of gender—responsible for his or her actions.

This may seem like an odd story to be posting on a feminist news site, but portraying terrorists as exclusively or near-exclusively male deifies women, and this is a form of objectification. Women are people, too, with all the susceptibility to corruption, greed, hatred, and violence that conveys.

Burke-White argues, though, that the significance of this case surpasses the gender component:

Most of the indictments handed down by international courts to date have focused on those at the top of standard hierarchies of power—military commanders, governmental officials, or the leaders of armed rebellions. In contrast, Simone Gbagbo held no official position in government; she wore no military uniform; she did not personally commit any of the crimes charged. Yet, the ICC Prosecutor alleges that Simone Gbagbo was part of “Mr. Gbagbo’s inner circle,” that she “participated in all the meetings during the relevant period,” and that she “instructed pro-Gbagbo forces” to commit crimes against individuals who posed a threat to President Gbagbo’s power.

Too many oppressors have been able to dodge justice by claiming, “I did nothing” simply because there was no actual blood on their actual hands. While the pendulum can swing too far the other way, as with the Reign of Terror, that probably should not stop us from prosecuting those who actively propelled others to commit atrocities.

From Victim to Impassioned Voice

Jenifer B. McKim profiles Asia Graves, a former child prostitute who put her pimps behind bars by bravely testifying at their trial. She now works for FAIR Girls, an anti-trafficking organization, mentoring other young victims.

As part of her work, she recounts the tale of her harrowing past and inspiring turnaround to government leaders, law enforcement officials, and media outlets. Most importantly, she tries to connect with girls who are susceptible to prostitution, or have already been dragged into the sex industry underworld.

Even my 90%-stone heart warmed a little at this story.

Woman Sues Girls Gone Wild Producers for Unauthorized Use of Her Image

Say what you will about whether it was advisable for this young woman to flash her breasts at a couple guys with a video camera, but she should win this suit for two reasons:

  1. It does not appear that she signed any sort of release or even gave verbal consent for her image to be used in commercial products or advertisements.
  2. She was 14 years old at the time and therefore probably not even legally capable of giving consent.

Of course, state laws vary, but 14 years old would be a pretty low cut-off.