32 Years Is Just Too Long

Eugene Volokh of his Conspiracy writes about a 48 year old man, Harold Allen, of Narragansett charged with a rape that allegedly occurred 32 years earlier. The victim claims to have repressed memory of the crime.  There’s no physical evidence.  And a person has been charged in Rhode Island, where there’s no Statute of Limitations for first degree sexual assault. This is picked up by Above the Law

While Volokh, not inclined to be open minded about the possibility that a criminal defendant didn’t commit the crime, takes the view that this is going to be hard one for a jury, Above the Law tells it without any comment at all.  What’s wrong with this picture?

For those knee-jerk conservatives out there, for whom the possibility of the government doing any wrong is one step above sticking a needle through their eye, here’s the skinny.  The damage is done.  The harm has been caused and it is unfathomable to believe that the Rhode Island AG didn’t know it when they moved on this mutt case.  This man’s name is now in the papers (not to mention all over the internet) as a RAPIST!  Rhode Island is a small town state, and by now everyone there knows that this man is a RAPIST!

So what that there’s no evidence.  So what that this is based in “repressed memory” from 32 years ago (when the defendant was 16 years old).  The point is NOT whether a jury will convict this man.  Of course, if a jury even considered this case for more than 5 minutes, it would be a disgrace to the system.  The point is that the harm is done when a person is arrested and charged for a heinous crime and his identify as a criminal is revealed to the world.  The impact on his reputation, and on his life, is monumental.  His life will never been the same, no matter what happens.  From that moment on, regardless of the verdict, he will always be a RAPIST in the eyes of others.

This is not a case, as Eugene Volokh sees it, where one questions the likelihood of conviction by a jury.  This is a case where the harm to someone who could never be legitimately convicted has been deliberately caused by the State.  Is there no issue when the State uses its enormous power to deliberately smear someone, knowing that proof of guilt doesn’t exist?

The issue in New York, and around the country, of whether to do away with the Statute of Limitations in rape has been hot, and politicians are lining up to throw it away.  The primary source of comfort is DNA evidence, which they tell the public provides conclusive proof.  Here, there is no DNA evidence.   Even with DNA, only half a story is told (more about this another day).  So there you have it.  The power and might of the State used to smear one man.  And the worst the commentators can say is they doubt it’s sufficient to get a conviction?  I though better of Volokh.