I am often surprised by the amount of passion some criminal defense attorneys bring to their cases . . . or even other lawyers’ cases. One of the most extreme examples of that tendency I’ve encountered is a commentator’s desire to pillory women who falsely accuse men of rape. She believes that doing so is so abhorrent such women should be singled out for special penalties.
Jonna M. Spilbor, commenting at Findlaw, brings up an ancillary issue in regard to the Kobe Bryant rape case.
Bryant’s case has raised a firestorm of issues, but one in particular is at center court: Has this good guy been falsely accused? Even at this early stage, the majority of those asked say yes. To many fans, this case just feels false.
If Bryant has been falsely accused, it won’t be the first time that a false report has been filed in an “acquaintance rape” case. In part, that’s because the law fails to meaningfully penalize false reports, or to give those who have been falsely accused any justice.
It seems to me that a falsely accused person in any case, criminal or civil, could say the same. No one likes to be lied about. However, in regard to legal matters or the numerous other situations when we are lied about, most of us move on. Knowing the truth ourselves often suffices. I can’t think of a reason why persons falsely accused of rape should be an exception.
Spilbor offers a rationale for treating false reports of rape differently.
Falsely reporting any crime is shameful. Falsely reporting a rape is especially heinous. The liar who files the false claim dishonors – and makes life all the more difficult for – the many true victims who file genuine rape claims because they have been terribly violated, and seek justice for it. At the same time, and perhaps even more seriously, the false report begins to destroy the reputation, and sometimes the life, of the accused from the very moment it is made – a fact of which many accusers are keenly aware.
The point of lying is to harm the person on the receiving end. So, I still don’t see how the liar in a false rape accusation is different from any other malicious person. And, without a meaningful difference, I can’t agree such accusers should be specially penalized if they don’t prevail in court. Read Spilbor’s full column to see if you are convinced.
And, let’s remember not enough is known about the circumstances to assume Kobe Bryant has been falsely accused.
In the weeks that have passed since Spilbor wrote her piece, if information from the proceedings and that leaked from sealed records is reliable, it has become clear that Bryant’s accuser did engage in sexual relations with him, and it appears, another man, within a close time period. She will testify and her sexual history may become evidence. It seems increasingly likely that Bryant will not be convicted. If that is the outcome, I don’t believe the accuser should be penalized for having accused him. What is or isn’t consent to intercourse can be very subjective. Failure to convince a jury does not necessarily mean the accuser is behaving in the malicious manner Spilbor assumes. Even is she is, I can’t condone assigning women who lie about rape to a special category.