Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Discussion Topic:How Do State Policies Concerning Religious Beliefs Affect Women?

What are the benefits to women and consequences to women of a government incorporating religious fundamentalism in its state policy?

We are interested in learning what you think about the role of religious fundamentalism and its effects upon women. What policies have enhanced the lives of women? What policies have disempowered them?

Please write to us at mdubin@pobox.com and we will post the best responses. Please feel free to suggest future topics as well.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Use CAVNET's Expertise To Address Same Sex Violence

Among the many experts on CAVNET Adding Content To Our Online Library - The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

"Timely and accurate information is crucial to violence prevention, and in our effort to educate about the relatively invisible topic of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) domestic violence, there is no better online database than that found on CAVNET. We rely on CAVNET to bring us valuable information and to disseminate our work to experts, advocates, and the public in a way no one else can. We are proud to be part of CAVNET's international network of content providers and participants, and recommend it without hesitation."

– Susan Holt, Program Manager, STOP Partner Abuse/Domestic Violence Program, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Los Angeles, CA

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Background About CAVNET

By Marc Dubin, Esq., Executive Director, CAVNET

CAVNET is designed to enhance collaboration among experts and advocates addressing violence against women, disability rights, human rights, and genocide. We operate a comprehensive, interactive online library/database/website, located at www.cavnet.org, several invitation-only/application-only listservs, and offer for sale a unique way to enhance your site - the CAVNET Database Builder Program (DBB), which allows you to add any of the cocuments from our online library to your site. (Visit www.familyjusticecenter.org (enter and go to library) for an example of the power of this program.)

I founded CAVNET in 1995, as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit, in an effort to facilitate greater collaboration among experts, advocates, and advocacy organizations working to address violence against women, human rights, and crime victims with disabilities. CAVNET's mission is to provide them with a better way to share information and resources, and to create an online library of information developed and used by experts, advocates, and survivors. To date, we have over a thousand participants from all over the world, and over 3,000 carefully selected items in our online library.

I operate CAVNET in my private capacity. I am also a Senior Trial Attorney in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, where I enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of the United States. (The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability). CAVNET is not affiliated in any way with the Justice Department. I also formerly served as President of the Legal Process and Advocacy Division of AAMR (American Association on Mental Retardation).

I was a prosecutor for 10 years, and for several years specialized in the prosecution of domestic violence and sex crimes cases. I also formerly served as Special Counsel to the Violence Against Women Office at the Justice Department.

President Clinton established the Violence Against WOmen Office in 1994 to coordinate implementation and enforcement of the federal Violence Against Women Act, and appointed Bonnie Campbell, the former Attorney General of Iowa, as Director. I am proud to say that Bonnie is a member of our Board of Directors.

I entered the Honors Program at the Justice Department upon graduation from law school and worked in the Civil Rights Division. I left after two years, to join the staff of Elizabeth Holtzman in Brooklyn, New York as an Assistant District Attorney. While there, I prosecuted a wide range of cases, including white collar crimes and the first case in New York State against corporate executives for dangerous conditions in the workplace (and, at that time, only the third such prosecution in the country) -- they were convicted of Aggravated Assault and several other crimes, for poisoning their workers and causing brain damage, by exposing them to mercury fumes (in a thermometer factory - Pymm Thermometer).

After six years, I left New York and moved to Key West, Florida, where I became an Assistant State Attorney. In that capacity, I was responsible for prosecuting all of the domestic violence cases in the lower Keys, (misdemeanor and felonies -- as well as the juvenile crimes, environmental crimes, child abuse, sex crimes, animal abuse, and gay-bashing cases).

I also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where I was Counsel to a HIDTATask Force investigating money laundering by drug dealers. In a case I helped develop, we recovered over 50 million dollars in drug assets from a single defendant (who was originally prosecuted in New Orleans). The seizure was the largest in the history of Louisiana, and recently, the Sheriff's office in the Florida Keys was given $25 million of the seizure for local law enforcement efforts. I worked as a prosecutor in the Keys for four years. I then rejoined the Justice Department, and assumed my present position.

After the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, I was detailed to the Violence Against Women Office, where I served as Special Counsel in the Office of the Director, Bonnie Campbell. As Special Counsel, I assisted in the interpretation and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act. After a year, the detail ended, and I returned to the Civil Rights Division. I then formed CAVNET, and operate it in my private capacity, on my own time. CAVNET operates several invitation-only/application-only listservs, and an interactive online library.

I believe that I am well aware of the cost of social injustice and of the abuse of power, and I am hopeful that CAVNET can play a role in educating people and help survivors,advocates, and experts. My parents instilled in me an awareness of the importance of public service, the cost of prejudice and abuse of power, and of the debt I owe.

Both of my parents came to the United States in 1952, from Lodz, Poland. My parents were both survivors of Hitler's concentration camps, and were the only members of their respective families to survive.(They each had 7 brothers and sisters) Before the war, Lodz had the second largest Jewish community in Europe. As of 1939, there were 230,000 jews in Lodz. The Germans moved them all into one area of the city, and walled it off. Eventually, an additional 25,000 people were brought in (20,000 Jews, and 5,000 Gypsies). The Germans then systematically starved and killed them.

Beginning in January of 1942, the Germans began transporting Jews from Lodz to the Chelmno death camp, at a rate of approximately 1,000 a day. Within 3 weeks, over 10,000 people had been transported. Between February and April of 1942, over 34,000 more were taken away and killed. These deportations continued month after month. In August 1944, the ghetto was closed, and all remaining residents were transported by train to Auschwitz. My parents and some members of their families were among this group.

As of 1944, of the original 250,000 Jews in Lodz, 30,000 were still alive.Shortly before the end of the war, on January 18, 1945, the Germans removed 66,000 Jews from Auschwitz, and in an effort to avoid discovery by the Soviet Army, which was advancing toward the camp, marched them in the snow for days, and shot them as they marched, trying to destroy the evidence of what they had done. My father was on this death march, but escaped by leading a group of prisoners into the forest, emerging only when the Soviet Army arrived.

By the time they were liberated from Auschwitz at the end of the war, in January 1945, only 15,000 of the original 250,000 jews in Lodz had survived. An estimated 1, 500,000 jews were killed at Auschwitz. All of my parents' families, including their parents, their grandparents, their cousins, their uncles, their aunts, their sisters, and their brothers, were killed.

Upon their liberation from Auschwitz, my parents were sent to a Displaced Persons camp, where they were kept for seven years. My sister was born in and spent the first six years of her life in the Displaced Persons Camp. In 1952, my parents emigrated to the United States.

CAVNET has been the resipient of a Ms. Foundation award, and has developed into one of the world's foremost repositories of information and resources on violence against women, human rights, and disability rights, and has a diverse membership from around the world. The application to join is located online, at www.cavnet.org. Please visit and consider applying today.

Please visit www.cavnet.org and www.cavnetblog.org for more information.



Comments About CAVNET:

"CAVNET is an irreplaceable tool. It allows us to keep current with the violence prevention leaders in America and "brainstorm" through other's perceptions and opinions. "

Coleen Widell
President
American Institute on Domestic Violence
Lake Havasu City, AZ

"CAVNET...allows experts and advocates to debate issues related to violence...., providing subscribers with a way to collaboratively address violence against women and children. Through its work, CAVNET positions groups nationally and globally to receive information and respond instantaneously."
– Ms. Foundation

"CAVNET has shown itself to be the premier online database concerning violence against women.... Not only does CAVNET provide timely and substantive research online, it does so in a way that saves time and resources. The busier you are, the more valuable it is. It's like having a research team of experts, available night and day... As former Director of the Violence Against Women Office at the Justice Department, I'm proud to be on CAVNET's Board of Directors, and grateful for the resource."
– Bonnie Campbell, Former Director of the Violence Against Women Office ,U.S. Department of Justice

"Amnesty International USA's Women's Human Rights Program has found CAVNET to be an invaluable resource as we learn about the longstanding and current work of US organizations and lawyers working to stop violence against women and also as a way to communicate with this network about what AI and AIUSA are doing on violence against women as a human rights violation.”
– Sheila Dauer, Director Women's Human Rights Program Amnesty International USA

"In addition to the volumes of material available and the networking, CAVNET also provides access to many of the world's leading experts who offer their advice and counsel..... There are many consultants, advisors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc., on this list who charge hundreds of dollars an hour for the same advice you can get via CAVNET."
– Robert J. Martin, Vice President & Managing Principal, MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems, Gavin de Becker & Associates

“Through the incredible level of networking, including the support and participation of people from around the country, CAVNET has become the premier listserv on violence against women issues. Through CAVNET, expeditious legal research is extensive and broad based. Important social and political dialogue is fostered, which allows us to continue to examine what we as a country, we in the different states and local communities are doing to respond to violence against women. These social and political conversations have empowered those of us working in this field, as well as those experiencing violence as part of their lives, to implement effective change with the hope and belief that some day, we will bring an end violence against women. Without CAVNET, these national conversations simply would not occur. CAVNET has brought together such a powerful, broad and eclectic group who, by a touch of the keyboard, can be current with the issues and have a national voice. It is those individuals participating in CAVNET who can and will create a world free of violence against women.”
– Nancy E. O'Malley, Chief Assistant District Attorney, Alameda County District Attorney's Office Oakland, California

"CAVNET is a valuable asset to this and to many organizations and individuals across the country. We are not able to travel the country and to stay in touch with what is going on in the field as often as we would like and run the day to day operations of this $1.5 million agency. CAVNET has enabled us to stay up-to-date on this dynamic field with its ever-growing body of research and information. It has also allowed us to gain information about other programs and issues within hours, sometimes even minutes. This is information that previously would have taken weeks to obtain. It lets us share information about our programs and other programs in Alabama with people and organizations we probably would not otherwise have had contact with. We cannot thank you enough for making CAVNET available to those of us on the front lines in this "war" against domestic violence."
– Kathy Wells, Executive Director, Crisis Services of North Alabama

"CAVNET gives me a wide variety of viewpoints from activist to academic to government as well as a rich treasure trove of ideas for enhancing or creating projects to reduce violence against women....The single most useful reference point for domestic violence and sexual assault.... I deeply appreciate the vision and commitment that underlie its creation."
– Nancy M. Ryan, Executive Director,Cambridge Women's Commission, Cambridge, MA

"CAVNET has been a resource of unmeasurable knowledge. When you become a " CAVNETer ", you join a family of people committed and focused on knowledge sharing and where job description or status has no barrier. Its is quite simply the "think-tank" to refer to at all times. When you put out a question to CAVNETers, you can be confident that the response is quick, informative and accurate. It's people helping people..."
– Colm Dempsey, Police Officer, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland

"CAVNET has saved me an enormous amount of time in researching a variety of information I would normally have spent hours doing on the web. ... It keeps me informed of the newest "trends" in resources, research, news coverage, and the thoughts of those working in the field....(T)his site gives me insight and prompts me to think. It also keeps me on the right track.”
– Heather Hall, Domestic Violence Coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Corrections

"Timely and accurate information is crucial to violence prevention, and in our effort to educate about the relatively invisible topic of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) domestic violence, there is no better online database than that found on CAVNET. We rely on CAVNET to bring us valuable information and to disseminate our work to experts, advocates, and the public in a way no one else can. We are proud to be part of CAVNET's international network of content providers and participants, and recommend it without hesitation."
– Susan Holt, Program Manager, STOP Partner Abuse/Domestic Violence Program, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Los Angeles, CA

"CAVNET is a true asset to the community.... I handled about 5,000 DV cases as a metropolitan judge in Albuquerque.... By sharing information and approaches to the problem of violence, and problems resulting from violence in our society, you provide a valuable clearing house for information and ideas."
– The Honorable Roderick Kennedy, Judge, NM Court of Appeals

“I recently retired after 25 years in law enforcement. I am now a victim advocate at Camp Pendleton MCB in California. Typically in law enforcement, training is offered only when legal mandates exist. Resources are few. Investigator's resources are determined by the size of their Rolodexes, which are carefully guarded. When CAVNET opened, a tremendous network opened and instantly began to vibrate with exchanges, resources, discussions, and (those nasty, dangerous thoughts known as) IDEAS. I've used the resources from CAVNET many, many times. And for every resource I have used, lives have been changed, and presumably some have been saved. Multiply my experience by the number of CAVNET members, and imagine how the world has been changed.”
– Diana Riehm, Victim Advocate, Counseling Services MCB, Camp Pendleton

"When I got a request from a person trying to help a young woman in Ecuador who is being stalked, I knew just where to turn: CAVNET. Within a day, several members sent me the names of nearly two dozen Ecuadorian organizations that may be able to help her! Without CAVNET, I would have had nothing to offer her in her language near her home. The CAVNET members are professional, knowledgeable, and very willing to share their expertise."
– Lyn Bates Vice President, AWARE

“CAVNET has been the most valuable resource of information for me throughout the last few years. As a victim of domestic violence including emotional and financial abuse and other abuses including child kidnapping, CAVNET has provided moral support and legal education, and has guided me to otherwise hard to find legal resources. In addition, CAVNET has put me in contact with specialists in domestic violence, and supportive and knowledgeable advocates. CAVNET has put together Advisory Committees providing excellent information which guided me while representing myself in court in a custody battle (www.custodyexpertise.org). I am most grateful for the help and empowerment that CAVNET has given me.”
– Survivor

“I turned to CAVNET recently for help for a young woman whose boyfriend was stalking and making inappropriate visits to her workplace. As a result I have received some great materials to share with her, including a check list of behaviors that would give one cause for concern”.
– Reporter, CNN Radio

"I have never had an electronic resource as useful as CAVNET. In addition to providing people with many opportunities to exchange ideas and information, CAVNET helps facilitate new friendships and promotes a high level of collegiality."
– Dr. Walter DeKeseredy, Ph.D, Ohio University

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The CAVNET DataBase Builder Program - The Simple Way To Enhance Your Site

Add information to your site easily and quickly - Educate your audience about violence against women and disability rights

Want to add information to your website written by experts in the field? Want to give your audience information about domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, incest, stalking, human rights, disability rights, child abuse, and crime victims with disabilities?

Want to post announcements to your website quickly, without waiting for your web person to "get around to it"?

Want the latest studies posted to your site?

Want information about the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence?

Do what some of the leading organizations in the nation have done - get CAVNET's DataBaseBuilder Program and add an online library to your site - an online library that draws from CAVNET's extensive online library.

With our program, you can select any document from CAVNET's database and add it to your site!

Visitors will see the information on your site, with your logo. You can update the selections as many times as you want, as often as you want, without knowing any computer language at all. Select and click - it's as simple as that. And you can add announcements as often as you want as well, keeoing your site fresh and new.


For an example, take a look at www.familyjusticecenter.org (click on library after entering site).

Contact us at mdubin@pobox.com for pricing and further information.

"Victims" and "Rapists"

"Not Guilty" or "Innocent"?


Some have asserted that now that the charges against Kobe Bryant have been dismissed with prejudice by the prosecution, he is not a rapist, and that the woman who accused him of raping her is not a victim. I don't know if he raped her, but I offer the following thoughts for your consideration:

Assume the following scenario occurs:

A man has sex with a woman against her will. She repeatedly tells him that she does not want to have sex with him, and he has intercourse with her anyway. Assume that there is no dispute about the facts.

Answer the following two questions:
Is he a rapist?
Is she a victim of rape?



In my view, he is a rapist, and she is a victim of rape.

He is a rapist and she is a victim of rape even if she does not file a police report.

He is a rapist and she is a victim of rape even if he is not arrested.

He is a rapist and she is a victim of rape even if he is arrested and the state decides not to prosecute.

He is a rapist and she is a victim of rape even if he is arrested and prosecuted and the state drops the charges.

He is a rapist and she is a victim of rape even if he goes to trial and is acquitted.

Wow - what about the presumption of innocence? What about "he's innocent until proven guilty"? Well, he still raped her, didn't he? And she still has all the consequences of having been raped, doesn't she? Under these facts, he is a rapist, but not a convicted rapist. Mike Tyson, for example, is not just a rapist, he is a convicted rapist.

Had Tyson been acquitted, would that mean he hadn't raped her? The criminal justice system is designed to force the state to prove its allegations against an individual beyond a reasonable doubt, so that theoretically, people who have been charged with a crime will not be convicted absent proof presented to a jury, proof obtained lawfully. If the proof is obtained unlawfully, the state may not use that evidence aganst the accused, and if the the jury does not believe the proof presented beyond a reasonable doubt, the state will not sustain its burden and the accused will be released. But 'not guilty" in a court of law is not the same as "innocent."

"Not guilty" in a court of law does not mean that the accused did not do it. He may have done it and the evidence necessary to prove it may have been unlawfully obtained and suppressed by the court. He may have done it and the state was unable to locate all of the necessary witnesses. He may have done it and the state was unable to properly and convincingly put the evidence before the jury in a way that convinces them beyond a reasonable doubt. Another jury may hear evidence against the same suspect (let's call him O.J.) and be convinced by a different standard that he did what he was accused of doing.

Let's not confuse "not guilty" as a verdict with "he didn't do it." "Not guilty" in a criminal trial means that the state did not prove him guilty with the evidence presented beyond a reasonable doubt. You will never hear a verdict in a criminal trial in America that the defendant is "innocent". The only choices are "guilty" or "not guilty". It's about the state's burden of proof, as well it should be. I think the confusion occurs when people think the jury is going to get to declare the accused innocent.

People accused of crimes should be presumed to not be guilty for purposes of trial. The state should have to obtain evidence lawfully. The state should have to prove each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jurors should be screened to determine that they don't assume that the state has met its burden before the trial concludes and they have been instructed on the law and engaged in deliberations and found that the state has met its burden. They should be required to find the accused "not guilty" if they find that the state has not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. When a prosecutor assesses a case to determine whether to proceed, the prosecutor asks not only "did he do it" but also "with the evidence lawfully obtained and with the witnesses available, can it be proven beyond a reasonable doubt?" If the answer is no, the prosecutor should not file the charges, even if the accused committed the crime.

But let's not forget to take a dose of reality. When a man forces a woman to have sex against her will, she is a victim of rape, and he is a rapist. Prosecution or not. Conviction or not.

-- Marc

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A response to Wendy re Kobe Bryant, from Bob Martin

Wendy,


If provocative is what you wanted, that is what you got.


I have a few thoughts from another perspective.


First, the justice system is NOT broken. It functions incredibly well, and certainly better than any other system on the planet. "Government" officials and employees are NOT collectively corrupt nor of one Stepford-wife-like mind. All but a very few are committed to doing the very best that they can to serve the public good. Sometimes people disagree with what they do, and the fact that they are free to disagree, is what makes the system work so well. The reality is that there is a small army of underpaid, generally under appreciated, overworked, dedicated, kind, loving, gentle "government" people in understaffed programs standing ready to help victims of crime all across the country.


I am still looking for some clue about what was corrupt about the Kobe case. If there was any corruption, it occurred under the watchful eye of 600 reporters from all over the world. If the prosecutor, defense and judge are all in agreement, that hardly sounds corrupt. It may not be how some would have liked to see the case resolved, but all indications are that it was resolved legally.


Maybe the reason "no one" else spoke out from day one is that there was nothing to speak out about. I submit that NOW not commenting wasn't "unconscionable," it was prudent given the lack of facts available at the time. After all, the DA filed the case. isn't that what he was supposed to do?


The only group of people who acted irresponsibly was the news media. "They" are the ones who caused the complainant all the grief. Of course, that is what they do. The news media is the only institution in this country that does not have rules, regulations, or a code of ethical conduct to guide them. Why aren't we outraged about their conduct?


Life is always about choices and it always interests me how much energy some people put into demanding that others decide things the way they tell them to. Of course, that is not really choice, it is submission. The DA chose not to proceed, but had he decided to proceed and put the victim on the stand, it was up to her to choose whether to cooperate or not. If she didn't cooperate, the judge would have had to choose what to do about it. If we, collectively didn't like what he chose, we could choose to remove him from office. It seems to me that when individuals are allowed to make their own choices, the system works much better. The obvious caveat is that we are all ultimately responsible for those choices and the consequences that flow from them.


I have no idea whether mandatory arrest policies and mandatory "no drop" policies disempower the victim or not. I do believe that "mandatory" anything in human affairs is bad policy.


Lastly, holding the Eagle, Colorado, DA up as representative of the entire criminal justice system is like using Lucy to represent all psychologists.


Bob


Bob Martin is Vice President of Gavin De Becker, Inc. Gavin is the author of the best selling book "the Gift of Fear", among others.


Gavin de Becker and Associates provides consultation and support to public figures, government agencies, corporations, and others who face high-stakes predictions of violence. Their eighty-five member firm advises media figures on safety and privacy. The Protective Security Division provides consultation, logistical support, advance work, and protective coverage for public figures.

Their Threat Management Division evaluates and assesses inappropriate, alarming, and threatening communications and situations. They provide expert-witness consultation and testimony on court cases that involve stalking, threats, and the foreseeability or prevention of violence. They also develop artificial intuition systems known as MOSAIC®.

During his 28-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department, Robert Martin directed several of the Department’s most important responsibilities. He served as Commanding Officer of specialized detective divisions, including Commanding Officer of Detective Headquarters Division. In 1990, he founded the LAPD’s Threat Management Unit, the first of its kind in the nation. He is a founding member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, chaired its first meetings, and provided the staff support to maintain it. He served as Commanding Officer of the Emergency Control Center during such challenges as the Rodney King trial and the 1994 earthquake.

Prior to joining Gavin de Becker & Associates in 1994, he served two years as Commanding Officer of LAPD’s Personnel Division, directing employment matters for 11,000 LAPD officers and staff. He oversaw Employee Assistance programs, background investigations and evaluations of applicants. During his last year, he initiated the Department’s internal Workplace Violence program.

MOSAIC
While with LAPD, Captain Martin pioneered the first police use of MOSAIC. The U.S. Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve Board, the Central Intelligence Agency, the California State Police, and many other agencies have since adopted MOSAIC.

He was subsequently asked to represent the Department on the Advisory Board for development of the MOSAIC used to evaluate hazards in the workplace (angry former or current employees & stalkers who seek out their victims at work).

He was a lead developer on the MOSAIC system co-designed by Gavin de Becker and the United States Marshals Service, now used for evaluating threats to Federal Judges. He led the Development Team on the MOSAIC used for assessing domestic violence situations might escalate to homicide. With it, police departments, prosecutors, and courts will apply a shared approach to separating the routine cases from the imminently dangerous.

Mr. Martin is an Advisor to CAVNET.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Additional Commentary on Kobe Bryant Case, by Wendy Murphy, & A Response

By Wendy Murphy:

Dear colleagues;

Thank you for engaging in a dialogue about my deliberately provocative piece. I have been a fan of no-drop policies for a long time (with the caveat that the state must assume full responsibility for resulting "costs" - I know - fat chance - but the point is what it is and there's NO hope the government will accept responsibility if we keep indulging their failures with a happy nod every time they bag a case) -

Life is always more important than policy -- but policy matters -- a lot. Wishy-washy tolerance for corruption in the name of "protecting the victim from the system" is rhetoric that does nobody any good.

The victim went through hell -- and ironically -- I was one of very few people willing to speak publicl y on her behalf from day one. Very few of you who now celebrate her right to take a payoff because of how much she suffered said a damn word in support of her during her suffering. Shame on you.

The decriminalization of violence against women by "special rules" that allow them to "drop the charges" is unacceptable. The system is hard -- horrible, even -- but celebrating the "right" of a victim to refuse to testify in exchange for money not only fixes nothing but indulges gratuitous corruption. We should hardly be encouraging victims to sell out for money while out of the other side of our mouths we're complaining about how economic and related power disparities underlie the very violence we claim to be fighting against.

No single woman's wealth is worth an increase in the risk of gendered violence for all women.

Law Professor Cheryl Hanna has written a powerful piece on the benefits of no-drop polices -- She demonstrates that not only are they appropr i ate, they reduce recidivism rates, deter intimidation tactics and better prevent violence.

In my past writings on this topic, I've urged folks to "blame the government, not the victim, for the justice system's failures" -- and the way to do this is NOT to allow - or burden the victim with the "choice" whether to testify. Controlling a criminal prosecution is not real "power" -- anymore than it is "empowering" to let women control how the fire department squirts hoses at burning buildings.

It is not "empowering" to let women "choose" not to testify -- - it is a convenient excuse and a means by which the state can blame victims for the failure of the system.

Empowerment comes from truly equal treatment in law and society by making the government DO IT'S JOB- which includes demanding that the justice system not decriminalize violence against women by "allowing" women to "choose" whether rape is punished or ignored by the state.

I realize that forc in g women to testify sounds like the big bad government come to bear on the poor victim, and this seems so darn paternalistic --

Of course it is -- the whole criminal justice system is paternalistic and pushy and chock full of state power -- that's what the government is SUPPOSED to do when it seeks to punish criminal behavior.

It is no more or less paternalistic just because the target of its power in this regard is a girl.

It is certainly convenient rhetoric to talk about the "power of the government" causing "harm" to rape victims by forcing them to testify -- and it is equally convenient to claim this is somehow sexist -- but the irony of this claim is that the only real sexism occurs when the system allows female victims to "permit" the government to decriminalize their harm -- while victims of other types of violence have no such "power". Ever notice how we don't even have no-drop "policies" in robbery cases? This is because nobody would tolera te a practice of dismissing a robbery case because the victim took a payoff or was intimidated into not testifying. Only women victims regularly get second-class treatment enough so that many responsible jurisdictions had to adopt no-drop policies to put a stop to it.

Advocates have been duped and coopted into believing it is somehow good to let victims "drop the charges" because it gives them back "control" -- when the ironic reality is -- this practice literally hands control, over the victim and the justice system, right to the accused.

This victim should not be seen as having done something good or appropriate by taking a payoff because she "had enough" --

Let's be grownups -- anyone who works in this field knows that the value of her payoff went way up as the trial grew near. She didn't walk away because she had enough suffering -- she walked away because she got enough dough. She deserves a high five only from her lawyers and her bank.

The saddest part of this mess is that many people who call themselves advocates think this is a perfectly lovely way to run a justice system. You know the old saying -- with advocates like that . . . . .

- Wendy Murphy

Response by Marc Dubin, Executive Director, CAVNET:

(Wendy's comments are in quotes - mine are in italics)


"Life is always more important than policy -- but policy matters -- a lot. Wishy-washy tolerance for corruption in the name of "protecting the victim from the system" is rhetoric that does nobody any good."

I am not convinced that the victim here was "corrupt". Frankly, I know practically nothing about the victim, but because charges were filed I assume that she was raped and that the state had the burden of proving it. She may have simply chosen to surrender to the reality that the state had failed to protect her from having her name and intimate details about her life disclosed to an international media (the state being both the prosecutor and the judge). Would the result be more palatable of she receives no money in a civil suit? Is there any evidence that she has already received money for choosing not to go forward, or that she was party to such an agreement? I have read of no such claim - if that were the case, it sounds like witness tampering to me.

"The victim went through hell -- and ironically -- I was one of very few people willing to speak publicly on her behalf from day one. Very few of you who now celebrate her rig ht to take a payoff because of how much she suffered said a damn word in support of her during her suffering. Shame on you."

I don't see defending her right to choose not to be arrested for contempt and being thrown in jail as "celebrating her right to take a payoff". And many of us did say a great deal - some lacked a national media willing to listen. No shame that I can see.

"The decriminalization of violence against women by "special rules" that allow them to "drop the charges" is unacceptable. The system is hard -- horrible, even -- but celebrating the "right" of a victim to refuse to testify in exchange for money not only fixes nothing but indulges gratuitous corruption. We should hardly be encouraging victims to sell out for money while out of the other side of our mouths we're complaining about how economic and related power disparities underlie the very violence we claim to be fighting against."

Not every victim who chooses not to testify does so because she sees a pot of gold. Most refuse to testify because they see a criminal justice system that has failed others of their gender time and time again. I remain unconvinced that this woman refused to testify because of money. It seems cruel to assert that she "sold out" for money. When I was prosecuting these cases ( and domestic violence cases), the women articulated legitimate concerns about going forward - the decision to prosecute over their objection always involved careful consideration of the possibility that I would have to authorize their arrest for refusing a lawful suboena or refusing to testify. Money was never the issue - trust in the system to keep them safe and make the perpetrator pay for his crime played a much more significant role. (No, I never had a victim arrested).

"No single woman's wealth is worth an increase in the risk of gendered violence for all women."

Again, I don't think that was the motivation.

"Law Professor Cheryl Hanna has written a powerful piece on the benefits of no-drop polices -- She demonstrates that not only are they appropriate, they reduce recidivism rates, deter intimidation tactics and better prevent violence."

What is the cite for the study? I would like to post it to the CAVNET online library/database.

"In my past writings on this topic, I've urged folks to "blame the government, not the victim, for the justice system's failures" -- and the way to do this is NOT to allow - or burden the victim with the "choice" whether to testify. Controlling a criminal prosecution is not real "power" -- anymore than it is "empowering" to let women control how the fire department squirts hoses at burning buildings. It is not "empowering" to let women "choose" not to testify -- - it is a convenient excuse and a means by which the state can blame victims for the failure of the system. Empowerment comes from truly equal treatment in law and society by making the government DO IT'S JOB- which includes demanding that the justice system not decriminalize violence against women by "allowing" women to "choose" whether rape is punished or ignored by the state."


In my view, it is not a "burden" to be empowered - sometimes, however, "making the government do its job" may necessitate arresting the vicctim when she is not anxious to continue to undergo the abuse of the criminal justice system. In domestic violence cases, the reason for refusing to honor the wishes of the victim to drop the charges is the belief that she has been forced into that position by the perpetrator's abuse, and that to agree with her request to not prosecute is merely permitting the abuser to control the decision. This may be controversial, however. Many domestic violence advocates have articulated the view that mandatory arrest policies and mandatory "no drop" policies disempower the victim.

When I was prosecuting domestic violence cases, I went forward with the prosecutions over the victim's objection all the time, as long as I could prove the case. I believed that to be in her best interest, in the best interest of her children, and in the best interest of future victims. Nevertheless, it felt very paternalistic to tell an adult, competent women who undoubtedly was well aware of what she believed needed to be done to keep her safe that despite her clearly articulated wishes, she was not in a position to decide. Other victims of crime who wanted to drop the charges almost always got to do so, absent some other countervailing social goal. How many burglaries or car theft cases are dropped every year as long as restitution is made? Is that a "payoff"? Why no outrage over that?

In rape cases, it can be argued, of course, that a rapist is likely to rape again, and that a familial rapist is likely raping other members of the family, and so there is a legitimate basis for the state proceeding over the objection of the victim. However, we must again examine whether revictimizing the victim by arresting her and prosecuting her for contempt for failing to cooperate is really the answer. Many advocates and prosecutors believe that doing so is going too far. Saying that, I should point out that I got a great many defendants to plead guilty when they believed that I would force the victim to go forward.


"I realize that forcing women to testify sounds like the big bad government come to bear on the poor victim, and this seems so darn paternalistic --"

It only seems that way because it is...

"Of course it is -- the whole criminal justice system is paternalistic and pushy and chock full of state power -- that's what the government is SUPPOSED to do when it seeks to punish criminal behavior. "

And that is why the prosecutor is given such leeway in deciding what to prosecute.

"It is no more or less paternalistic just because the target of its power in this regard is a girl."

Or a woman...

"It is certainly convenient rhetoric to talk about the "power of the government" causing "harm" to rape victims by forcing them to testify -- and it is equally convenient to claim this is somehow sexist -- but the irony of this claim is that the only real sexism occurs when the system allows female victims to "permit" the government to decriminalize their harm -- while victims of other types of violence have no such "power". "

The harm can be quite real, and is not mere rhetoric. It probably is sexist, or at least has a gendered result, given the statistics concerning victimization of women. Of course, gays and lesbians are victims of rape too, and they are also often forced to testify. And I am not convinced that "victims of other types of violence have no such "power". " If the prosecutor wants to go forward, the victim has only two choices - cooperate or not. If they do not cooperate, they can go to jail. Where is the power?

"Ever notice how we don't even have no-drop "policies" in robbery cases? This is because nobody would tolerate a practice of dismissing a robbery case because the victim took a payoff or was intimidated into not testifying. Only women victims regularly get second-class treatment enough so that many responsible jurisdictions had to adopt no-drop policies to put a stop to it."

Why would we need a no drop policy in a robbery case? The victim is usually anxious to go forward. Responsible jurisdictions adopted no drop policies because of the dynamics of domestic violence, not because of a rash of payoffs to the victim.


"Advocates have been duped and coopted into believing it is somehow good to let victims "drop the charges" because it gives them back "control" -- when the ironic reality is -- this practice literally hands control, over the victim and the justice system, right to the accused."

I know a lot of advocates, and I would never accuse any of them of being "dupes". Most of the advocates who have educated me over the years have been troubled by this, and with good reason. First, let us be clear - the victim in the Kobe Bryant case did not drop the charges - the state did. They were not her charges. She is pursuing her case in civil court - she had no control over whether the criminal case proceeded or not. If it is true that she told the prosecution that she was unwilling to testify, then the state had several options, including subpoening her and calling her as a witness. If she then refused to testify, the state could have sought to have her held in contempt. We will never know whether with the right support and encouragement, and depending upon what was happening at that stage in the trial, she would have chosen to testify. The state's decision to dismiss the case ended the possibility of that scenario. And while we are on the subject, why d id the state dismiss the charges "with prejudice"? The jury had not been sworn - double jeopardy had not attached. Perhaps at some future date she would have been more willing to proceed.

"This victim should not be seen as having done something good or appropriate by taking a payoff because she "had enough" -- "

Still waiting for evidence of the payoff.... She did something good and appropriate by withstanding months and months of a criminal justice system failing her every chance it got. Who wouldn't have had enough?

"Let's be grownups -- anyone who works in this field knows that the value of her payoff went way up as the trial grew near. She didn't walk away because she had enough suffering -- she walked away because she got enough dough. She deserves a high five only from her lawyers and her bank."

As a grownup, I take issue with the assertion that we are capable of assessing her motivations. What gives us reason to believe that she hadn't had enough suffering? How much, exactly, would be enough? She got enough dough? Really? How much? What evidence is there for that assertion?

"The saddest part of this mess is that many people who call themselves advocates think this is a perfectly lovely way to run a justice system. You know the old saying -- with advocates like that . . . . ."

By a large margin, that's not the saddest part at all. The saddest part is that another survivor of rape was revictimized by the system that is supposed to help her. I think advocates across the country are outraged, and so is anyone else with any sense of decency. But let's not take the easy, and familiar road - of blaming the victim and the victim's advocates. Let's examine how the system failed, what it means for other survivors, and try to fix it.

-- Marc

Wendy's Response:

I appreciate all the comments from everyone -- this dicussion is difficult -- and terribly important -- the justice system is badly broken and reform is desparately need -- not band-aids and "special rules" for girls (i use this term sarcastically marc -- of course i include women) but real reform where TRUE equal protection of the law for women and elimination of gender bias as a strategic tool is the goal -- i appreciate marc's comments -- let me respond

...

Marc:

I am not convinced that the victim here was "corrupt". . . . Is there any evidence that she has already received money for choosing to go forward, or that she was party to such an agreement? I have read of no such claim - if that were the case, it sounds like witness tampering to me.

Wendy:

A prosecutor worth his salt would investigate and prosecute for witness tampering -- and make no mistake about it -- the money won't obviously change hands until people stop watching -- but the deal is done -- and both the civil and criminal cases are over because the right price was paid -- but if you think there's no evidence until someone admits to a payoff -- you'll be waiting a long time -- it doesnt' work like that, never has, never will - the victim in the cardinal bernardin case recanted his allegations of sexual abuse - claimed they were induced by hypnosis -- claimed the recantation had nothing to do with money but then he took a seven figure settlement two months later -- hnmmmmy question is -- if this matters very much to you in determining whether the victim is "corrupt" -- will you express your outrage and demand prosecution for witness tampering when the victim's wealth becomes obvious?


Marc:

And many of us did say a great deal - some lacked a national media willing to listen. No shame that I can see.

Wendy:

NOW was absolutely silent except for one lukewarm press release almost a year after the crime. When asked about issues like rape-shield and rape law -- they repeatedly said "no comment" - Other national groups with the power to issue press releases, however poorly received - sent NOTHING -- -- which is unconscionable - only the NSVRC did anything remotely close to speaking out and they did so whether or not the media cared - I'd love to hear from anyone about anything they did in this case to speak out for the victim. Who wrote op-eds? Who sent press releases? Who staged protests? It's wonderful that people commiserated at water coolers and over dinner -- social change can grow from that -- but such "speaking" is hardly "speaking out"

Marc:

Not every victim who chooses not to testify does so because she sees a pot of gold.

Wendy:

absolutely true -- many want to walk away b/c the system is horrible and/or they've been threatened, etc -- I never said otherwise -- but I did say that letting a victim "choose" not to testify, even for these reasons, reifies and encourages such tactics by giving them value -- and worse -- it gives the perpetrator power over the victim -- > Money was never the issue - how many zillionaire celebrities have you prosecuted -- money is ALWAYS an issue when the defendant is rich> > Again, I don't think money was the motivation.that's lovely -- you have very little company -money may not motivate many victims because most perpetrators who are prosecuted don't have the cash to pay her off!

...

Marc:

In domestic violence cases, the reason for refusing to honor the wishes of the victim to drop the charges is the belief that she has been forced into that position by the perpetrator's abuse, and that to agree with her request to not prosecute is merely permitting the abuser to control the decision. and the same principles apply here

Wendy:

the reason for refusing to honor the wishes of the victim to drop the charges against bryant is the belief that she has been forced into that position by the perpetrator's intimidation and coercion $$ tactics -- which permit the abuser to control her decisionMany domestic violence advocates have > articulated the view that mandatory > arrest policies and mandatory "no drop" policies disempower the victim. the word "disempower" assumes there was "power" to lose -- and the fact is -- victims and witnesses have no "power" in criminal prosecutions -- one cannot be disempowered where one has no authority -- and shouldn't have authority (or burden/responsibility which is the flip side of the same coin)

Marc:

It felt very paternalistic to tell an adult, competent women who undoubtedly was well aware of what she believed needed to be done to keep her safe that despite her clearly articulated wishes, she was not in a position to decide.

Wendy:

Isn't it paternalistic to tell the only eyewitness to a bank robbery or murder that they, too are "not in a position to decide"? This rhetoric around the idea of empowerment is manipulating women into accepting the idea that there's some kind of "freedom" at stake in her choice to be beaten and raped -- when the truth is -- the government, by letting her "choose", is excusing itself from IT'S responsibility to prevent violence -- (a public offense, not a private wrong) -- and worse, the government gets to blame the victim for her own suffering -- lovely.To allow the victim to make a "private" choice is to revert back to a time when violence in the home was not a "public" problem at exactly a time in our evolution when we are finally starting to understand that violence in the home is just as wrong -- if not more wrong -- as violence in the middle of main street -

Marc:

How many burglaries or car theft cases are dropped every year as long as restitution is made? Is that a "payoff"? Why no outrage over that?I certainly hope burglaries are not dismissed after a "payoff" --

Wendy:

i've never heard of such a policy -- geez marc -- did you do that as a prosecutor? don't answer the question -- i'm certain you have a fifth amendment right to remain silent.Even "accord and satisfaction" statutes that expressly allow victims to "settle" criminal cases by accepting restitution in assault and battery cases are under fire as inappropriate because they allow "payoffs" -- I prosecuted a case once where a contractor took an elderly woman's money as a deposit to build her a new kitchen and when the defense attorney called the woman to offer her money in exchange for her refusal to testify, I reported the lawyer to licensing board because his conduct was clearly unethical.

Marc:

If the prosecutor wants to go forward, the victim has only two choices - cooperate or not. If they do not cooperate, they can go to jail. Where is the power?

Wendy:

i find it fascinating that you keep using the word "power" -- as if victims and witnesses are supposed to be able to assert, or not, the "power" of the state. since when are victims agents of the state and since when do people have the power to tell the court or prosecutor or judge what to do? can a victim dictate that a case be indicted? no -- can a victim tell a judge how to rule on evidence? no. can a victim command ANYTHING in a criminal case? no. why? because it is not her personal litigation and she has neither the power NOR the burden to tell anyone anything about how to prosecute criminal cases.I represented a victim a few years ago who had testified thirteen years earlier in a rape case where the perp was convicted and sentenced to prison. On the day he was sentenced he faked a heart attack and for various illegitimate reasons the defendant never served a day of his sentence. When the victim contacted me thirteen years later, I filed a motion in court to advance her "speedy disposition" rights under the victims' bill of rights -- and I asked that the court honor her rights by making the dude start serving his sentence - guess what the defendant's AND the prosecutor's response was?the victim has NO POWER in a criminal case -- she has NO POWER to tell the court what to do -- she has NO POWER to cause a man to begin serving his sentence -- that POWER belongs exclusivley to the government because it is the government's job to prosecute cases. this is the same government that told the bryant victim she had the "power" to make a case go away -- yeah right -- she didn't --

Marc:

They were not her charges. . . . the state had several options, including subpoening her and calling her as a witness. If she then refused to testify, the state could have sought to have her held in contempt.

Wendy:

the issue is -- why didn't the prosecutor do this? the victim is partly to blame but the DA and the judge are the real culprits for not forcing her to take the stand.

Marc:

Perhaps at some future date she would have been more willing to proceed.

Wendy:

good observation marc and further proof that it was a deal for money b/c if it were ONLY about how she felt about the trauma of the system, etc --, it absolutely would have been dismissed "without prejudice" for the reasons you state -

Marc:

Still waiting for evidence of the payoff....

Wendy:

common sense should be enough for anyone -- the dismissal "with prejudice" PLUS his "apology letter" which NEVER would have been written if she backed out only because of the trauma - and then there's the timing. It's a bit too convenient that she just happened to reach her limit on the eve of trial -- which just so happens to be the moment when the value of her refusal to testify reaches its peak. Plus, frankly, I've seen this happen many, many times. The eve of trial payoff is rather common.

Marc:

What gives us reason to believe that she hadn't had enough suffering? How much, exactly, would be enough?

Wendy:

this is irrelevant -- i have no doubt she suffered terribly -- but there is no point after which -- if she reaches it -- dismissal is proper --

Marc:

Let's not take the easy, and familiar road - of blaming the victim and the victim's advocates. Let's examine how the system failed, what it means for other survivors, and try to fix it.

Wendy:

this statement is head-scratchingly odd -- the "blame the victim" tactics that are familiar are the strategic ways that defense attorneys point at the victim's behavior as somehow responsible for the violence -- and there is a certain "blame the victim" feel to the way the DA "blamed" her for his decision to drop the charges - that said -- the victim is responsible but hardly the major culprit -- she deserves criticism but the DA and judge are the most blameworthy and it is neither easy nor famililar to blame the victim for taking a payoff -- in addition -- advocates who stood silent from day one should reassess whether they did the right thing -- and we can talk until the cows come home about "fixing the system", but we'll be grinding our wheels in meaningless busywork forever if we don't rise above the fray and have a real revolution -- this means feeling and acting on the rage that naturally flows from this case on a number of levels -- we may not all agree about what makes us feel rageful but at a minimum, if we agree that the system needs major repair, then let's at least agree that there will be no more silence about anything -- no silence out of fear of being called racist - and no silence out of fear of being called anti-victim -If a victim's conduct adds to systemic injustice, it must be stated. No more political correctness -- no more careful parsing of words for fear someone might be offended. No more polite lobbying for useless new laws -- It's time for real reform and all the pain that comes with major change.

-- Wendy

Marc was a prosecutor for 10 years, as well as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and served as Special Counsel to the Violence Against Women Office at the U.S. Department of Justice. He currently serves as Executive Director of CAVNET.

Let's not fall prey to victim-blaming

By Catherine Shugrue dos Santos

First of all, let me state unequivocally that I am a big fan of Wendy Murphy's writing, to which I've been fortunate enough to have access through CAVNET. Usually, I heartily applaud her perspective and her ability to articulate the often complex issues associated with sexism in our society. Having said that, however, I have a serious concern with the most recent op-ed on the Kobe Bryant rape case.

While certainly I agree that every stage of this case has been marked with tragedy, and that the dismissal of the case is, as Murphy suggests, emblematic of "checkbook justice," I find this most recent op-ed's characterization of the victim troubling. Suggesting that we know what she thinks, or can truly imagine the incalculable harm this entire process has exacted upon her, is insensitive at best, arrogant and matriarchal at worst. In fact, statements like "The saddest part of the story may be that the victim is foolish enough to think money will fix her problems" seems needlessly perjorative, too close to victim-blaming for my comfort. It reads to me like an indication that we are angry at her for not standing up for herself, and by extension, for all rape survivors.

Let me say that I am truly disappointed that the victim gave up her fight before the trial had even begun, and that a rapist will now go free, without sanction. I'm more than a little angry that money has changed hands, again demonstrating that justice is not blind to bright and shiny silver. However, I am neither disappointed in the victim herself, nor angry at her. I must acknowledge that the victim's fight had been going on for a long and intense time, and she was the most obvious and serious casualty of the battle so far. I like to hope that in her place, I would have gone forward and allowed justice to be served, but given the sorry and sexist state of our justice system, so evident in the mishandling of this case since the very beginning (not to mention the travesties of justice that abound in nearly all rape cases), that I can understand why she might decide to back out before enduring the public humiliation and pain of a trial.

Could it not be that the victim had simply had enough? Should we fault her for determining when she could take no more? Isn't it her right to ask for relief, even if we can debate whether criminal law actually allows for her request to be granted? As Murphy rightly points out, the rule of law was ignored in this case, repeatedly. The system gave in to her desire to back out, and we should rightly challenge that decision, but does her motivation have to be suspect? The discussion seems reminiscent of similar arguments for the imperfect, often victim-harming and potentially disempowering mandatory arrest statute here in New York.

Certainly, it is easy to assume that the victim sold out, and undoubtedly, there are many who will say so. Should those of us who consider ourselves domestic violence advocates and feminists be among those to level that particular charge? Does it not fly in the face of empowerment theory to do so? I don't pretend to know what is in the victim's head or heart, and while I have a lot of frustration with much of what happened here, I want to stay as far away as possible from saying anything that could revictimize her. The so-called justice system has done enough of that already.
Finally, given that undeniable victimization, if the pundits are right and she did decide to take the money and run, can we blame her? Do we really have the right to be angry with her, for not meeting our demand that she be the standard bearer for rape victims everywhere, striking a blow to patriarchy? Are we so sure we'd do so, if we were in her shoes? I, for one, am by no means sure what I would have done.

Catherine Shugrue dos Santos

Catherine Shugrue dos Santos is the Executive Director of HELP Haven and HELP Harbor and is President of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Battered Women's Advocates in New York

A Survivor's Right To Say No

What are the limits of the state's right to go forward with a prosecution, over the objection of the victim?

Consider the following scenarios, and consider who should decide whether to go forward -- the prosecutor or the victim?

1. Alice is the mother of two young children, and her husband repeatedly beats her, often in front of the children. He is arrested, and Alice begs the prosecutor to drop the charges.

In a criminal prosecution, the prosecutor represents the interests of the state, interests that sometimes are inconsistent with the interests of the victim. In this example, Alice may be correct that she will be safer not cooperating with the prosecutor's efforts to incarcerate her husband. In the event he is acquitted, he may retaliate against her for her cooperation.

As a competent adult, should she be allowed to decide what is in her best interests? What about the interests of her children? What about the interests of the community to punish a criminal for his unlawful behavior?

2. Beth, 22 years old, is raped by her father, and wants support and counseling, but does not want her father prosecuted. She has a brother and a sister. The prosecutor fears that Beth's siblings have also been victimized by their father, and wants Beth to cooperate in sending her father to prison.

Should the prosecutor be compelled to drop the charges because of Beth's refusal to cooperate, or should the prosecutor compel Beth to testify against her father, to protect her siblings and vindicate her interests? Should the prosecutor subpoena her, and arrest her and incarcerate her for contempt if she refuses to testify? How far should the prosecutor go in forcing the issue?

What do you think? Why?

Please send your responses to mdubin@pobox.com, and we will consider posting the best responses.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Commentary on Kobe Bryant Case, by Wendy Murphy, Esq.

THE DISMISSAL IS A CRIME -- AND EVERYONE'S GUILTY
By Wendy Murphy, Esq.

As if a rape and a payoff aren't bad enough, the worst crime was committed by the prosecutor and the judge in the Kobe Bryant case, both of whom shirked their responsibilities to the public and to the integrity of the justice system by allowing the victim to "choose" not to testify.

This was not the victim's civil lawsuit, it was the public's criminal prosecution. Just like people who witness bank robberies and murder, victims of violence are required to take the stand and tell the truth. The victim no more had the power to refuse to testify than she had the power to command that the case be prosecuted. By letting the victim "choose" not to testify, the prosecutor and the judge endorsed what the public rightly sees as outright corruption.

You can almost understand why the victim would want to come up with some type of "deal", but when the very people responsible for protecting the integrity of law itself participate in checkbook justice, the harm to society is incalculable.

Public respect for the rule of law in criminal cases has been teetering around the hopper for a long time. And now that an alleged rapist has apparently bought his way out of a serious prosecution with the whole world watching, this colossal waste of public resources is sure to move us further in the wrong direction.

Checkbook justice rips at the core of what it means to live in a civilized and just society. That a deal struck was struck in this case is Exhibit One in the proof of why prisons are disproportionately full of minority men. Yet some of the very people who claim to care about this social problem will celebrate Bryant's "right" to buy his way out of this case. Shame on them.

Promoting corruption isn't the only problem. By dismissing such serious charges after the victim endured relentless attacks on her person, her privacy and her character, the judge and prosecutor have effectively rewarded intimidation tactics and ensured that more victims than ever before will suffer the same indignities.

Some will claim the defense did a great job by achieving this result for Bryant, but the truth is, any idiot can pay off a victim. No need for legal skills or intelligence; wealth and a lack or moral fiber will do.

The public has a right to assume that criminal cases will be resolved fairly, with a full airing of the truth. But in this case, not only was justice denied, the full picture of evidence that points at Bryant's guilt will never come to light because so much of it was ruled "too prejudicial" for pretrial public disclosure.

Without at least a full understanding of the evidence, the public will never know how much of an injustice the dismissal really was and whether tax dollars were truly wasted.

Instead, the public will assume, as they should, that the victim cared more about money than justice, and that Bryant must have been guilty because he was willing to cut a deal to make it all go away.

Still, the prosecutor was right to bring the charges as this is among the strongest non-stranger rape cases ever reported - which probably explains why, in his "apology" statement, Bryant all but admits his guilt.

The saddest part of the story may be that the victim is foolish enough to think money will fix her problems. It is more likely she will live in existential hell for the rest of her life because she will forever be known as the type of person portrayed in the tabloids as a mentally ill, drug addicted promiscuous woman who extorted Kobe Bryant, falsely accused him of rape and couldn't even keep her underwear clean.

The victim's only hope for regaining her dignity was to take the stand and tell the truth. Win or lose, she could have held her head high. Instead, she used the criminal justice system as leverage to ratchet up the value of her civil case and then she sold out. For this, she should hang her head in shame.

The one glimmer of hope in all this is that, as with most major disasters, meaningful change may follow.

Lawmakers around the country should enact statutes that compel victims and witnesses to testify in all criminal cases.

Only when hush money and intimidation incentives are removed will the justice system function as it should. Until then, payoffs and the practice of "victory by intimidation" will be the name of the game.

There should also be a political response from the public. No prosecutor or judge who would indulge such tactics deserves a position of public trust.

It's tough enough to fight crime when victims and witnesses are reluctant to testify simply because they can't take time off from work or they fear retalilation. This case adds fuel to that fire because it went away for all the wrong reasons.
The well-being of all people and the very integrity of law demand better.


Wendy Murphy
New England School of Law, Boston

----

Wendy Murphy is a member of CAVNET and a member of our Advisory Board.

A former assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, where she worked in the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit, Wendy Murphy now serves of counsel to the Boston law firm of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten. Focusing her private practice on advocacy for women victims of violence, she has generated several test cases on the confidentiality of victim counseling records and has argued cases that have helped shape state law.

The founder and director of the Victim Advocacy and Research Group, she is associate editor of the Sexual Assault Report and the author of numerous articles and opinion pieces on the criminal justice system, sexual violence, child abuse, and related legal topics. She was a principal performer on the nationally syndicated television show, "Power of Attorney," and has served as a legal analyst on NBC, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Court TV, "Dateline," "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," and NPR's "The Connection." She is also a regular columnist for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

She received a B.A. from Boston College and a J.D. from New England School of Law.


The views expressed are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of CAVNET or its members.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A Ride-Along with the Washington, D.C. Police Department

By Marc Dubin, Executive Director, CAVNET

I wrote this shortly after going on a ride-along with the Washington, D.C. Police Department. It describes my experiences, and includes a domestic violence call.
I went on this ride-along with the Washington, D.C. police in 1999, from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., in Northeast D.C., an area of the city with a high volume of calls. Here are some highlights:


The evening started out quietly enough. I met with a Sgt. at the precinct, and I was allowed to accompany him for two hours. He went to a variety of scenes, as backup to other officers. As we were cruising along, we passed a shopping center. As we did so, we observed two private security guards from a department store wrestling with a man on the ground. We pulled over, and the Sgt. got out of the car and went over to assist the private security guards. I stayed in the car. I felt that it would be too distracting to the officer for me to get out, and I did not want him to worry about my safety as well as his own. The guards wrestled with the man, and the Sgt. assisted them in handcuffing him.

At that point, I got out of the car. I heard the security guards accusing the man of shoplifting, and of knocking a customer down as he fled. The man on the ground kept complaining that he was hurt, and kept denying that he had done anything wrong. Several bystanders gathered, and accused the security guards of kicking the man in the head. I did not see them do so. The Sgt. told me later that the witnesses would have to file a complaint at the precinct in order for an investigation to be initiated. He took no steps to investigate their allegations, and did not speak to them. He called for backup, turned the suspect over to the security guards, and we left.

Shortly thereafter, we responded to an "Officer Needs Assistance" call. Lights and sirens on, we sped through the city at 65 miles an hour. By the time we arrived, things appeared to be under control, although a large crowd had gathered. Four suspects were in custody. I was told that a police officer had been called to the scene by someone in the crowd, and that the caller had complained that four teenagers were drunk and making a lot of noise. When the officer arrived, the four had drawn a crowd, and the officer had asked them to put their alcohol away and move on. One of the four, a young woman, had refused to do so, and as he reached hor her to take the drink away from her, her boyfriend became threatening. The officer then called for assistance. Approximately 8 units arrived. The four were arrested for refusing to obey the police, and for having open containers of alcohol. I was left wondering if there had been a way to defuse the situation without the arrests. We moved on.

After driving around a bit more, we returned to the station, and I accompanied another officer for the remainder of the evening and morning. As it turned out, it was the same officer I had accompanied on a previous ride-along. This time, he was working alone, without a partner.

I sat in the front seat. Our first call was to a business that was trying to close up for the evening, but was unable to do so because a woman was sleeping in an alcove. The owner wanted a police officer to ask her to leave. The owner met us at the scene. The officer went into the building, and spoke to the woman. I followed him in.

He was very respectful to her, and addressed her politely. She accused the owner of being a crack dealer, and asserted that she wanted him arrested. The officer asked her if she was homeless. She denied being homeless, and peacefully left the building. The owner thanked the officer, and we left.

We drove around, stopping at a 7-11 for coffee, and then resumed patrol. Things were very quiet, and it began to look like a slow night. Suddenly, the dispatcher informed us that a robbery suspect was being chased in our area. The officer joined the chase, and we were off. For a moment, I held the officer's cup of coffee, and then, at his request, tossed it out the window. As we were going 75 miles an hour through narrow streets and alleys, it seemed the prudent thing to do. As we met the other units, I observed several officers in foot pursuit of a man wearing blue shorts and a light blue shirt. The man's description was broadcast, and more units joined the chase. The officer we were riding with chose not to get out of the cruiser, but instead drove to an area where he felt he would be able to intercept the suspect. We careened around corners, and we momentarily lost sight of him. I was bouncing all over the front seat. I spotted him running to our right, and alerted the officer. He continued the chase, and then reached a point where we could no longer pursue by car. He slammed on the brakes, and got out. I wasn't sure what to do -- I thought it would be safer to stay in the car, rather than join him in the foot pursuit. Then I remembered what he had told me on a previous ride-along about snipers shooting at stationary police cars. Great choices. As I was trying to decide, the officer yelled at me to join him, and as he disappeared, gun in one hand, flashlight in the other, I got out of the car and ran after him, into the darkness.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw the suspect run into a building, and saw the officer follow him into the building. I declined to follow them in, and waited for other officers to arrive. Within moments, they did, from all directions. A helicopter suddenly hovered overhead, with a very powerful search light illuminating the scene. An officer with a German Shepherd arriived as well. The officers had not seen the suspect enter the building, nor had they seen the officer we were riding with enter after him. I pointed out the building they had gone into, and told them what I had seen. They rushed into the building, and I stepped back to see what would happen. I observed a man inside the building, and saw him go out onto a second-floor balcony. He appeared ready to jump, but an officer was pointing a gun at him before he could do so. Officers tackled him, and took him into custody. He was unarmed. The officer rejoined us, and we left. I later asked him why he had told us to join him in the foot chase, and he told me that it was his opinion that it was more dangerous to sit in the car. Officers really don't get paid what they deserve.

After a while, we received a radio run informing us that a woman was involved in a domestic dispute, and was holding a man at bay with a knife. When we arrived at the scene, she was in the front yard, and she informed us that the man had left. She said it was her common-law husband, and that he had threatened her with the knife -- she denied that she had held him at bay. The officer broadcast a description of the man and of the vehicle he had left in. We went inside to interview her.
She informed us that she had been arguing with the man about his failure to help around the house and failure to pay child support, and that during the argument, he had taken a large knife from the kitchen, and had put it in his pants. She became frightened, and had called 911. She told the officer that the man had not brandished the knife, and had left it on the counter before leaving the house. Upon further questioning, she acknowledged that he had beaten her in the past, and that she was afraid of him. She had gotten restraining orders in the past, but had allowed them to expire, and had allowed him to return. The officer explained to her about her right to a restraining order, and asked her to go to court Monday morning. She said that she feared he would return later that morning, and he advised her to pack his things and leave them on the front porch. He gave her the Hotline number, and she said she would call. I do not know if she ever did so. The man was not apprehended.
By 3 in the morning, I was ready to leave.

The ride-along had certainly broadened my respect for law enforcement. I recommend that others consider contacting your local precinct and inquiring about the possibility of going on one.