Last week, we began a discussion about the damage caused by false allegations of rape. Because of heavy and biased media coverage, defendants often suffer serious damage to their reputation, career and finances even if they are later acquitted.
In a recent article, famous criminal defense attorney Roy Black suggested that rape defendants should remain anonymous in the media until or unless there is a conviction. He also calls for reforms in our legal system that would allow rape defendants to receive a fair trial.
Black points out that in recent years, basic protections have been eliminated in order to make it easier to charge someone with rape. Often, the alleged victim’s accusation is enough to bring criminal charges against someone. It is no longer necessary to corroborate that the rape occurred, nor does there need to be evidence of force or threat.
After charges are filed, there are also imbalances in the courtroom that make criminal defense much more difficult. First, Black notes that attorneys are not allowed to caution a jury that a rape charge is very easily made but very difficult to defend.
Second, because alleged rape scenarios often involve alcohol and intoxication, there is a built-in double standard here as well. If the victim gives consent for sex while intoxicated, it is not legally considered to be consent. However, the defendant is also unable to use intoxication as a defense.
Finally, Black notes that recent changes in rape shield laws make it much more difficult to discredit an accuser. During cross-examination, defense attorneys are not allowed to ask questions about the alleged victim’s past sexual conduct. This even includes talking about prior false accusations of rape made by the accuser.
There is no question that rape is a terrible crime. The Supreme Court called it “highly reprehensible, both in a moral sense and in its almost total contempt for the personal integrity and autonomy of the female victim.”
Therefore, because of the gravity of rape accusations, it is important that those accusations have merit and proof. Furthermore, because a false accusation of rape can ruin a defendant’s life, it is important to protect their identity until or unless you have that proof.
Source: salon.com, “Why we should protect those accused of rape,” Roy Black, 27 July 2011