Friday, June 22, 2007

Women's Rights: One Step Back

As my usual readers know, I'm definitely not a FemiNazi, but I'm ALL for women having equal rights under the law.

Within our own lifetimes, it has been notoriously difficult for women to take on men in court situations, especially those regarding rape.

Thanks to Judge Cheuvront of Lancaster County, Nebraska, women were shoved one step back.

The 'honorable' Judge ruled that a woman involved in a complaint against her assailant could not use the term "rape" or even "sexual assault" during her testimony.

From this source:

The new order comes from Jeffre Cheuvront, a district judge in Lancaster County, who granted a defense motion to ban such words. A defense lawyer, Clarence Mock, told the Lincoln Star-Journal those references should be restricted to keep the trial fair.

"Rape" is not even a legal term, he noted. And while "sexual assault" is, that references something only the jury can determine, he said.

"Under the rules of evidence, witnesses can't reach legal conclusions," he told the newspaper.

But the judge also rejected a motion from prosecutors to ban the words "sex" and "intercourse," because they imply consent, and the woman who brought the complaint, Tory Bowen, said that leaves her being forced by the judge to commit perjury.

"The word 'sex' implies consent," she said. "I never once would describe (what happened) as sex. He's making me commit perjury."

The encounter happened Oct. 31, 2004.

"In my mind, what happened to me was rape," said Bowen, 24. "I want the freedom to be able to point (to Safi) in court and say, 'That man raped me.'"

But Mock said removing the words to which he objected will leave the case to "turn on the facts."

"Using words like 'rape' creates unfair prejudices for defendants and invades the [duties] of the jury," he said.

On trial for the second time is Pamir Safi, 33. A November trial ended in a hung jury.

Bowen testified for nearly 13 hours then, when "victim" and "assailant" also were banned, and said the impact was "huge."

Jurors will think she's choosing to use the word "sex," she said.

Earlier testimony showed the two were strangers who met at a Lincoln bar the night of Oct. 30, 2004. They had drinks and left together about 1 a.m. Police reports show Bowen told an investigator the following day she could not remember most of the previous evening and that she did not willingly accompany Safi.

Prosecutors later filed the sexual assault charge on the grounds Safi knew Bowen was too intoxicated to consent to sex.

Wendy Murphy, of the New England School of Law in Boston, said the ban could be powerful.

"It's very difficult to explain why jurors feel the way they do," she said. "The point is, language is so passively absorbed they don't even know it."

She said banning the word "rape" is unprecedented and said such a restriction on witnesses "impugns their candor, their credibility."

"Jurors will go back to their room and say, 'She didn't feel it was harmful. After all, she called it sex,'" Murphy told the newspaper. "It's like saying to a robbery victim, 'You can’t say you were robbed, because that's a legal judgment. You can only say you gave your stuff to the defendant.' That's absurd."

Prosecutors said they disagreed with the order, but will follow it.

I wonder if the judge would feel so strongly against biasing the jury if he truly understood what it is like to be raped or assaulted... The fear and shame it brings the woman, and, when she finally gathers the courage to take the accused to court, she is told that she cannot even use the proper terms to describe what happened to her.

I wonder if the judge could refrain himself from using the term "rape" or even "sexual assault" if someone, likely 50+ pounds larger than he were to hold him down and force a penis into the 'honorable' judge's body against his will.

What an utter disgrace.

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