Fault Lines
18 October 2017

Remembering the Girl with the Blue Dot Over Her Face

Jan. 7, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — My client stands charged with rape.

The indictment, as returned by the grand jury, and in the not-particularly eloquent language (and punctuation) of these sorts of legal documents, says that on such and such a date, in this county, my client:

did engage in sexual conduct, to wit: vaginal intercourse, with Jane Doe by purposely compelling her to submit by force or threat of force.

Through discovery, we will learn before trial who “Jane Doe” is. But in all paperwork, every motion, every response, every court order, she’ll be referred to by her initials.  If the case goes to trial and the newspaper covers it, the paper, too, will refer to her only by her initials.  Her name, her identity, will remain shrouded in mystery.

If my client is convicted, there will be an appeal. She will, in the briefs and in the appellate court’s opinion, be referred to only by her initials.

If my client is acquitted, if he is found not guilty, if he is declared legally innocent, if the jury believes that she of the initials lied through her teeth, she will still, in court documents and in the media, be referred to only by her initials.

The insistence on initials grew from a laudable effort to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, to report, to actively assist in pursuing criminal charges. It’s embarrassing to have to repeat, over and over, to cops and prosecutors and jurors, the details of fingers, and lips and penises and vaginas.  And then to be challenged, by those same cops and prosecutors – and then by defense counsel.  All the time, at least in court, while the guy who did it smirks.

So it was determined to privatize as a means of encouraging. Because we really do want to get rapists off the streets.

Except. (You know, there’s always an except.)  There’s another story.

My client. The one named in the indictment.  The one whose finger and penis and tongue.  The one whose “force or threat of force,” so the grand jury said.  The guy who’s smirking in the courtroom.  The one with the tattooed

FUCK YOU

on his forehead. Or in the three-piece suit he wears every day to his job as an investment banker.  The one who isn’t smirking but holding his head in his hands and quaking with fear and horror at what she claims he did – and what he knows just wasn’t like that (or was, for that matter) – if it happened at all.

Which he insists to me that he didn’t do, wouldn’t do. And maybe he’s telling the truth, which happens.  And maybe the jury hears it or maybe not.  And maybe they buy it or maybe they don’t.

But the one thing for sure is that he doesn’t want to be there. Exposed.  No more than she does.  Less, actually.

And, oh yeah, named. Fully.  From the moment of arrest.  In the indictment.  At every court appearance.  In the caption of every paper, every motion and response and order, every verdict form, every brief, every court opinion.

And every newspaper story. His name.  His picture.  On TV.  Film at 11.

* * *

It’s necessary, sometimes, to recall first principles.

When she first went to the police. When he was first arrested.  When the grand jury voted the indictment.  When the jury was called and the newspapers started reporting the testimony.  Through all of that.  And through the verdict and forever after if the verdict was

Not guilty.

All that time, unless (not until which suggests it’s just a matter of time, but unless) the jury concludes that the state proved him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, through it all, he was, as a matter of law,

INNOCENT

Wholly and completely.

An innocent man fully exposed to the humiliation, to the obloquy, to the hatred. Because he was accused.

The bastard!

And she was not a victim. She was an accuser.  No more than that.  But hidden, concealed by her initials alone.  Because she should not be further shamed, should not suffer beyond the pain of what he did to her.

Except, of course, if he didn’t. Because the jury hasn’t yet decided.  She’s just an accuser unless.  But those initials, they tell a different story.

* * *

First principles, as I said. And the first principle is that unless the state proves him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he whose name and likeness are bandied about is wholly innocent while she, whose identity is carefully concealed for her protection from the shame of what he is innocent of having done to her . . . .

WHAT THE FUCK AM I TALKING ABOUT?

Of course he was guilty. He was charged wasn’t he.  She accused him, didn’t she.

The son of a bitch.

Naturally she has the protection of Jane Doe and then initials. And naturally his name and photograph are in all the papers and on TV.

No, there’s nothing natural about it.

The legal protection for the accuser is a legal presumption of guilt for the accused.

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