Tuesday, May 13, 2008

De Anza case update

It looks like that state investigation (due to public outcry) about the original failure to file charges in the De Anza rape case has come to the same conclusion: no charges will be filed.

Of course, this has now led to more outcry, but as I stated originally about this case, the outcries really seem to miss the point. The problem, as always, with this case isn't about whether or not there was a rape, but who actually committed it. Unless you can establish that beyond a reasonable doubt, you have no case.

What this final outcome now shows, though, is that likely the prosecutor's office made the correct decision in the first place. With all of the outcry, one would think that they would have charged someone if they had any chance of making it stick.

Sure, it sucks that perps are most likely getting away with a horrible crime, here. But at least the prosecutors showed some ethical backbone by declining to file charges where ethically, they should not have, due to a lack of sufficient evidence to support charging any particular individuals. Far too often in this nation the opposite has occurred, usually resulting in innocent people (often minorities) being convicted, sometimes executed or, failing that, lynched.


BadTux said...

But the question *IS* whether there was rape. The person having sex with the girl at the time the three young ladies barged in has been positively identified by one of the young ladies. The two persons who attempted to keep them out has been positively identified by the young ladies. The question then becomes one of consent, and there the girl is entirely unhelpful, she doesn't remember a thing. If the girl had not been 17, it would have been statutory rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor regardless of the question of whether she consented or not, but the "Romeo and Juliet law" protects a 20-year-old having consensual sex with a 17 year old. Given that the girl doesn't remember the details of the incident (and apparently nobody ran a toxicology report to see whether her drink had been spiked with one of a number of date-rape drugs widely available in California college circles, which would have removed the doubt), you are correct that it's unlikely that it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she was raped even though the three who interrupted the rape say they can positively identify the one person who was raping the girl when they entered the room and the two persons who attempted to stop them from entering the room (who would be contributory).

On the other hand, that standard does not stop other Bay area prosecutors from pursuing -- and winning -- dubious prosecutions. Indeed, the San Jose Murky News had a whole series on dubious prosecutions, including eyewitnesses who identified the perp only after being prompted by the cops, DA's who with-held evidence, cops who invented evidence, false confessions from mentally retarded suspects, the works. But then, those were all poor people who couldn't afford good lawyers getting the shaft, not fine upstanding college rapists who can afford good lawyers.

Do I think the prosecution should have pressed charges anyhow? Well, at the very least it would have punished the young men by impoverishing them due to attorney's fees, which is something, I suppose. On the other hand, now the civil suit can go forward and the same thing happens, so (shrug). That said, your final point -- that a judge could overrule a jury if they found the young men guilty -- is unrealistic in the context of Santa Clara County. No judge here wants to be thought of as "soft on crime", especially rape. They've deferred to juries on far more dubious prosecutions, and those convictions have been upheld by the appeals courts. So while theoretically you may correct, in practice it simply does not happen, at least not locally.

DBB said...

I hadn't seen anywhere that they could actually identify specific individuals - but then maybe the media was trying to avoid naming names.

I guess we'll see what comes out of the civil suit.

BadTux said...

The San Jose Murky News did a interview with two of the young women recently, and they insist they can positively identify two men. But in the end, it all boils down to the issue of consent as to whether it was rape in a legal sense of the word, and that's an issue that's hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt when you have so many witnesses claiming that there was consent and a victim who can't remember. The preponderance of evidence (for a civil suit) is more likely to conclude that yes, there was rape, based simply on the circumstances.