Another miscarriage of justice

An eighteen-year-old and two of his friends have sex with seventeen-year-old, who is too young to consent under Oregon law. She complains. The men aren’t charged. The complainant is charged, and convicted, of making a false statement, on what seems like obviously deficient evidence.

Of course, I don’t have all the facts, but if this story is close to accurate judge Peter Ackerman of Beaverton, OR needs a refresher course in the meaning of “presumed innocent” and “proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

Judge Ackerman convicted a rape complainant of filing a false police report because he found the three men she accused “more credible,” despite a wide range of inconsistencies, and because witnesses said that the complainant did not “act traumatized” in the days following the incident.

A false complaint of rape is a terrible crime, and it’s possible that the woman in question committed that crime. But proof beyond reasonable doubt that the complainant made a statement she knew to be false, when the only question was whether her four-in-a-bed encounter when she was 17 years old was consensual or not? Puh-leeeze.

(The Heretik points out that, under Oregon law, a seventeen-year-old is incapable of giving valid consent.

Not only is the claim that this verdict won’t discourage real rape victims from complaining obviously false; it may also result in some people accused of rape being prosecuted when the charge would otherwise have been dropped.

The case was brought, not by the District Attorney who declined to prosecute the three men, but by the City Attorney’s office. The DA reportedly decided, not that the report was false, but that a conviction was unobtainable. That’s what a good prosecutor does, even if he thinks a crime might have been committed.

But if a declination paints a target on the complainant’s back, every prosecutor in a sexual assault unit will be under pressure from the complainant and her friends to go ahead with a weak case, just to protect the witness. Ugh.

I’m playing catch-up; Kevin Hayden andKevin Drum were there first.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: