Posts Tagged ‘criminal trials’

What a glorious morning in the Blue Ridge. I’ve been sitting out on the deck with Ms Bean watching golden leaves drift by and listening to the rustle of oak trees in the wind. Soon I will have to bring the plants in from the porch, but for now, this is my season. Warm, sunny days and cool nights, Fall in Virginia is at its most elegant. Only the recurring theme of rape brings my autumn rhapsody to an end, and sends me upstairs to write.

Maybe it’s because we were sailing the Danube when a Stanford swimmer was on trial for raping an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been too politically plugged in to think about anything else, but today’s news caught my attention. Brock Turner, the rapist/swimmer, has been released from jail and is registering himself as a sex offender in Ohio. There are a few things about this case I find abhorrent.

First, in the state of California, if you rape an unconscious girl, they assume she has given her consent because she can’t say, “No.” Should I say that again? There are a few states that have crafted laws like this, what shall we call it, the “I Can’t Say No” clause? So, this gentleman was charged with a “sexual assault,” not “rape.” Still, this is how the FBI describes rape – “…penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Nothing about the ability to talk, in fact we know some women are so terrified they cannot utter a word. In this case, the woman was “lucky” two men saw her being raped, and chased down the predator. Because if that had not happened, this would have just been another post-party night on campus. The unnamed young victim read a lengthy letter to Turner at sentencing, this is a small part:

According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up.

Three months in jail, a slap on the wrist. Boys will be boys will be sex offenders for life.

Let’s leap across the country to New Hampshire, to another white, privileged incidence of rape that has shocked suburbia. This week the victim of last year’s St Paul’s prep rape case went public. A very brave Chessy Prout, who is only 17 now, was a 15 year old Freshman at the prestigious school when she became a victim of something called the “Senior Salute,” where upperclassmen try to hook up with the new students. Owen Labrie, a 20 year old who looks like a student at Hogwarts, was sentenced to one year in prison after he was found on a train violating his bail. Poor boy, he was only trying to visit his girlfriend at Harvard. http://www.today.com/news/chessy-prout-st-paul-s-school-assault-survivor-sheds-anonymity-t102326

And skipping back a century, if you’ve been following any of Downton’s marathon episodes over Labor Day weekend, you may have been reminded of the lady’s maid, Anna, who was raped downstairs during a concert upstairs. It happened in the second episode of Season Four, and I happened to watch a bit while Bob was working. How could I forget the intrigue of the rapist’s untimely death, the aftermath of arrests at the castle? Who did push the rapist off a train platform to a very Anna Karenina end? Was it Anna, or her husband Mr Bates?

Rape happened in the Bible, and lest you think we’ve figured it out, it wasn’t until 1998 when the state of Mississippi struck down its law that a rape could only be proved if a woman was “pure.” And let’s all thank “King Edward I of England (who) was a forward-thinking chap. He enacted the landmark Statutes of Westminster at the end of the 13th century. They redefined rape as a public wrong, not just a private property battle. The legislation also cut out the virgin distinction and made consent irrelevant for girls under 12…” http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/men-defining-rape-history

If you haven’t sat down to talk with your high school and college Freshmen, boys and girls, about these things, you had better plan some time over Parent’s Weekend. Tell them if a girl falls down, pick her up. This was the view from my kitchen last night. Apricot night skies and buttercream mornings. img_5153



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I admit it. I love Bonnie Raitt, she of the slide guitar and flaming red hair. Last summer we saw her at the Pavillion on the Historic Downtown Mall. Her voice is just as good, if not better and her lyrics always hit the right heart string. I’ll share with you the song that’s been stuck in my head all morning.


And the reason I’ve been humming “Have a heart please, why don’t you have a heart…” is because I caught a snippet of the interview my guy Anderson Cooper is broadcasting tonight on CNN with the first juror to talk about George Zimmerman. I’ve been telling Bob all weekend that the judge didn’t answer the jury’s question about manslaughter, that’s why they voted to acquit. Judge Debra Nelson  asked them for specific questions, but the jury never followed up on the manslaughter questions with specifics. This juror, who prefers to remain in the shadows, said that they found the evidence and the legal charges “confusing.” Now this Judge is questioning whether the charges should have been filed at all.

And we find out that the first vote in the jury room had 3 jurors in the manslaughter slot. A verdict of manslaughter, which I think was probably the right call if all the facts had been presented (like Zimmerman’s pattern of calling the police about “suspicious” looking black men more than 40 times in the past year). The murder charge was overreaching maybe, since that presumes Zimmerman intended to kill – he set off that evening with a loaded gun hunting young black men. A manslaughter conviction would have meant that he didn’t intend to kill Trayvon…this actually seems to have been the more likely scenario. I think he wanted to stop him, but I realize I don’t really know.

Let’s think about this, in Florida if someone looks “suspicious” you can hunt them down and kill them if THEY stand their ground and try to fight back! Is suspicious a gay kid, is it a Latino or a mentally disabled homeless person? What about a woman in a short skirt, hanging out on a street corner? I’ve had 2 separate instances recently when I thought someone looked “suspicious” – they were white guys in a pickup truck, both times they had parked under a tree in the shade, in the middle of the day where they could watch kids at a 1)park and 2)sports club but were looking at maps or a newspaper when they saw me approach my car. In both instances I was close enough for them to say something to me like, “Hey.” I thought about calling the police BUT they were not committing a crime. I did jot down a license plate number! Check out this video from Howard University: http://boingboing.net/2013/07/15/howard-university-students-v.html#.UeRx1MJ-hgI.facebook Do they look suspicious?

Back to The Anonymous Juror, and what got me humming. She said she didn’t think that killing was what was in Zimmerman’s heart; That his heart was “…in the right place.”

” JUROR: I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly, that he went above and beyond what he really should have done. But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.” http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/15/3502047_p3/zimmerman-juror-speaks-out-transcript.html#storylink=cpy

In other words, she gave this murderer a pass because she didn’t think he intended to kill Trayvon – which is like saying he’s guilty of manslaughter since he actually DID kill him! In my mind, once Zimmerman disobeyed the police and got out of his car, he set into motion the tragedy that unfolded. Is there a sliver lining? Will gun laws and stand your ground laws be reformed? After Newtown, I’m not hopeful. Let the jurors begin the talk show rounds, it will only get curiouser and curiouser. Because they presume Zimmerman has a heart, and just from watching his affect in court, and listening to his 911 call, I wonder.


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