"Victims" and "Rapists"
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.