Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Duke Prosecution, and On the Mantra "Believe the [Alleged] Victim [in Sexual Assault Cases]"

David Feige, One-Off Offing, Why you won't see a disbarment like Mike Nifong's again, Slate (June 18, 2007):
Mike Nifong [the former prosecutor in Durham North Carolina] did what prosecutors almost always do when a complainant comes to them alleging a sexual assault: He took his complainant at her word and went full speed ahead with a prosecution. The fact is that few if any prosecutors wait for corroborating evidence or insist on more than one person's say so before initiating a sexual assault prosecution. Indeed, they'd be vilified if they did. The cardinal rule of sexual assault complaints is "believe the victim," and since anyone who complains is deemed a victim, even a semi-credible complainant can generate an arrest and prosecution in the absence of physical evidence, additional witnesses, or even a prompt accusation. This isn't just the case in Durham; it's true almost everywhere. The widespread support for this questionable practice is such that if the Duke case had gone to a jury and the defendants had been convicted, Nifong would not only still have his law license—he'd have been lionized for his dogged pursuit of rich white kids.
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