Defense tramples rights of alleged rape victim
Kobe Bryant’s accuser will be questioned about her sexual history, we learn from the headlines.
The casual reader now assumes that the 19-year-old has a juicy story to tell. Ergo, she’s a slut and, well, what difference did one sexual encounter make? Only those who have never had sex against their will would entertain the question.
Pamela Mackey, Bryant’s unprincipled defense attorney, has kept up this kind of scorched-earth attack from the beginning, not so much arguing the case in the press as slandering the woman’s character.
Read the story and you learn that the questioning will be in a preliminary hearing, and what comes out may or may not be introduced at the actual trial, unlike all the other uncontrolled blather falling from Mackey’s loose lips.
But in the meantime, the young woman’s reputation – that is, her credibility – is further destroyed.
Mackey’s defense of her very cool client is built on doing serious damage to the woman’s reputation.
Since the victim is white and Bryant is black, Mackey’s even accused her of being a racist even though there is not a single shred of evidence to back this claim. All this is happening well before we go to trial, in a calculated attempt to float the idea that the accuser is not a particularly worthy victim. Pollute the pool of potential jurors this way and you’ve got a good chance of a slam-dunk victory of innocence.
Whatever happened to those rape shield laws that were supposed to protect women, you ask?
Me too. As a rape survivor, I’m horrified at Mackey’s amoral antics and reminded again why I didn’t call the police. I didn’t end up with enough bruises. Besides that, I knew the bastard. I had let him into my apartment when he was banging on the door at 1 a.m. I didn’t want to wake the neighbors. Wrong choice. Especially if you want to report a sexual assault.
But that was more than a quarter of a century ago. Since then most states, including Colorado where this case is being played out, enacted rape shield laws. But they only cover what happens in front of a jury. In addition, the very laws that were supposed to protect a woman’s credibility have had the unintended effect of eroding her right to privacy, notes women’s rights advocate and former prosecutor Wendy Murphy: “Rape shield laws reduced a woman’s right to privacy from what was a core principle of freedom to a mere legal entitlement. The exceptions (to the law) quickly swallowed up the rule,” she says. “Now when it bumps up against up defendant’s right, it more easily gives way to his constitutional claims to a fair trial, due process, confrontation, the right to cross examination.”
So far, Colorado’s law has been useless. To date, Mackey has insinuated that the woman had other sexual partners before and soon after her encounter with Bryant; that she is mentally unstable; that she only did this to attract the attention of an ex-boyfriend. She argued against keeping the rape counselor’s notes private, saying that only served a “political agenda,” as if the woman’s right to privacy in such a situation was of no importance. And she injected racism into the trial with her offhand comment that there’s “a lot of history about black men being falsely accused by white women.”
Sure, it’s happened, but this blanket statement is bogus. Most accusations of rape were found to be just excuses “to get rid of the Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property,” wrote turn-of-the-century journalist Ida Wells. She was verbally tarred by the white media of her day, but later researchers confirmed her assertion.
Mackey didn’t support her racist remark with facts. Just getting it out there was enough to further pollute the jury pool, possibly in an attempt to get the trial trans-
ferred to Denver, where there are likely to be more rabid Bryant fans.
No one is arguing that Kobe Bryant doesn’t have the right to a fair trial.
But the woman-hating, race-baiting tactics of his defense ought to be stopped, however they can be. Mackey needs to be sanctioned for her unethical behavior.
We wouldn’t tolerate a black witness being discredited like this because of his color, yet we tolerate this kind of conduct against a woman when she reports she’s been sexually assaulted.
From the tactics going on right now, and the media’s complicity with them, it’s clear that we still devalue a woman’s word, and the Bill of Rights does not apply to a woman once she cries rape!
Lorraine Dusky is the author of “Still Unequal: The Shameful Truth About Women and Justice In America.”