No Comfort For The New Victims

The case made the news for the craziest of reasons, that there was an old photo of one of the accused men with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  An editor googled his name, and there it was. Suddenly, it was interesting.

The accusation was rape and sodomy, that two men had drugged a 32-year-old woman and then passed her between them.  The name of the woman is unknown, because she was the victim, but her accusations were no secret:

The marketing graduate testified in a Toronto courtroom that she and her friend were invited back to the condo by the two co-accused after meeting them at the London Tap House.

After sipping on a glass of wine and taking a shot of vodka, she headed to the living room “and that’s the last thing that I remember,” she said.

Waking up in her underwear at home, she remembered nothing until the flashbacks hit her, court heard.

But another woman, who showed up at the condo that evening, explained that the victim was just plain drunk.  Between that, her “flashbacks” and inconsistencies, the judge acquitted the defendants.

They are the two hardest-to-earn words in criminal justice — not guilty — and Patrick Sikorski and Daniel Griffiths at last got to hear them Friday.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer acquitted the two, respectively 27 and 30, of three ruinous charges each, gang sexual assault, sexual assault and administering a stupefying substance for the purpose of sexual assault.

“At what price liberty?” Mr. Griffiths’ father, close to tears, wondered afterwards.

There was the cost of defending themselves, hardly insignificant after four years leading up to the acquittal, but also the cost of having their names, their reputations, smeared.

Indeed, once an allegation of sexual assault is made, it’s as though the word “alleged” disappears from the vocabulary of the justice bureaucracy: The woman is now a “victim,” entitled to the support of “victims’ services” and a friendly escort to the accused’s every court appearance.

“When the train leaves the station in charge of sexual assaults, it only reaches the destination at the end of trial,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Virtually until the moment the complainant encounters defence counsel for the first time, either at the preliminary hearing or at trial, her account, as all over the map as it may be, is often good enough.

No one, other than those horrible criminal defense lawyers, questions a rape victim.  Her words are sacred, and to challenge them is not merely politically incorrect, but an outrage.

[I]t was a pooch of a case, and throughout, the alleged victim’s name remained confidential, protected by a publication ban, while as Mr. Humphrey said, “the names of the presumed-to-be innocent” weren’t, with the only onus to correct the public record lying with the press.

But allegations of rape and sodomy are filled with titillation, the stuff that interests the media and causes readers to drool with delight and horror.  How awful the story is. How awful these men are. How awful.

Except when they didn’t do it.

But there is nothing exciting about an acquittal.

A TV colleague, whose station had not covered the case so had no explaining to do, as it were, nonetheless wandered by the court, found the case compelling and phoned to ask the bosses about it.

They weren’t interested, not in the story of an acquittal.

There is no mechanism to unring the bell of nasty accusations or return a reputation to an innocent person.  Those who are inclined to believe the woman who cries rape no matter what, or who don’t really care if it happened because men deserve to be convicted regardless, won’t feel any sympathy.  Who cares if a few innocent men have to pay with their reputations?  There are so many women who suffer sexually at the hands of men (spit out the word as if it disgusts you) that no tears will be spilled for the one who got away.

And besides, did you read the allegations?  Sodomy. Sodomy!  And even if it wasn’t, these miscreants had no respect for women, and deserved what they got regardless.  There is no reasoning with anyone inclined to never let facts get in the way of their gender politics.

But there is reason to question how the courts, the legislatures and the media treat the accused.  Not only can’t they give the innocent back their reputations, but they don’t have the slightest interest in trying.  They don’t care. Case closed, move along.

In the beginning, the 32-year-old woman in the burgundy bra was the victim of two men.  Today, the two men are the victims of the woman.  The big difference is we have no idea who that woman is, and she will be able to walk away from this case without her future being forever tied to it.  The same can’t be said for Patrick Sikorski and Daniel Griffiths.

And like it or not, love their gender or blame their gender for whatever perceived evils exist in the battle of the sexes, they are innocent.  And there will never be a made-for-TV movie on Lifetime about their travails.

You can read all about how the new victims suffered on the front page of the newspapers.  Oh wait. No, you can’t.

H/T Ed, formerly of Blawg Review, now of sandy beaches everywhere


20 thoughts on “No Comfort For The New Victims

  1. BL1Y

    “Today, the two men are the victims of the woman.”

    Really? They were found not-guilty, but nothing in your post indicated that she lied or made a knowingly false accusation.

    They may be victims of an overly zealous prosecutor who should have dropped the case if he thought he didn’t have good enough evidence. They’re definitely victims of a media culture that smears people when they’re accused and has no mechanism to repair them when the accusations don’t stick. But victims of the woman? I don’t see it.

    1. SHG Post author

      A victim is a person harmed by external action, regardless of whether it’s intention or not, malevolent or not. Whether you see it isn’t relevant, as they suffer nonetheless for the accusations against them.

      1. BL1Y

        Would you call someone who was guilty and rightfully convicted a “victim” of the justice system?

        I think most people use “victim” to mean not just someone who has been harmed, but also that the harm was wrongful.

          1. BL1Y

            We don’t know that they were falsely accused. As you know, many people who are guilty go free. And as you know an inconsistent story doesn’t mean the accuser is lying.

            Accusing someone of doing something you genuinely believe they did is not wrongful.

            1. SHG Post author

              We do indeed know they were falsely accused. They were acquitted after trial. They are thus innocent. As for whether the accuser “genuinely believed,” that may well be the case, but her belief does not make the harm done to the two men less wrongful. That’s because they are innocent.

              And before you go to the next step (the verdict is “not guilty,” not “innocent”), the defendants are presumed innocent until the presumption is removed by a verdict of guilty. If there is no verdict of guilty, they remain innocent.

              Edit: Upon further deliberation, I amend my earlier acknowledgement that the harm be “wrongful.” That’s not correct. The harm must be undeserved, but not necessarily wrongful.

          2. BL1Y

            Pretty sure you forgot to add the sarcasm tag at the end of that.

            Being found not-guilty doesn’t mean you are actually innocent, it just means there wasn’t enough evidence to prove your guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

            Seriously, did you forget the sarcasm tag, or is it your contention that everyone found not-guilty is /in fact/ innocent?

            As a side note, have you ever split a banana open, stuffed it with chocolate and butterscotch chips, topped it with marshmallows, and then put it under the broiler? It’s fantastic.

            1. SHG Post author

              Oddly enough, no sarcasm at all. After trial, the verdict options are guilty or not guilty. There is no finding of innocent. But there was and remains the presumption of innocence. Had you ever tried a criminal case, you would have heard a judge explain to the jury that the defendant is presumed innocent, and retains that presumption until such time as a jury finds a defendant guilty. If the jury (or judge, if tried without a jury) does not find the defendant guilty, then the defendant retains the presumption of innocence.

              But of course, your question is whether he is “in fact” innocent, or as post-conviction argument to reverse the conviction fames it, “actual” innocence. I submit the defendant is “in fact” innocent. Ironically, the problem with what happened to this two victims is precisely the problem with people like you, having been accused, it is somehow now their burden to prove their actual innocence or you will presume them guilty “in fact” even if not guilty under law. There mere accusation has, to your mind, convicted them in fact even if the law lets them off the hook.

              And no, I’ve never split a banana open, stuffed it with chocolate and butterscotch chips, topped it with marshmallows, and then put it under the broiler. It sounds delicious.

          3. BL1Y

            I’m not saying they have the burden of proving actual innocence. I’m saying that actual innocence is something we just don’t know in this case.

            Whether her accusation was wrongful depends on if they are actually innocent. If they did in fact rape her, then she’s absolutely right to accuse them of it. The fact that they later did not get found guilty doesn’t change whether her actions were right or wrong.

          4. Erik H.

            Huh? I thought you were sarcastic; I’m disturbed to find out that you aren’t.

            Guilt is the conclusion that actions were criminal, combined with the certainty that there is no reasonable doubt to the conclusion.

            Innocence is the conclusion that actions were NOT criminal, combined with the certainty that there is no reasonable doubt to the conclusion.

            But there’s an enormous gray area between the two. That gray area includes the majority of rape cases, to be honest: rape is so difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that convictions are very hard to get. But the failure to get a conviction is merely a lack of conclusion that the accusations were true. It is NOT a conclusion that the accusations were false. This is a classic logical fallacy in which you seem to be asserting that “not-A = B.”

            As a simple example: Imagine that the accused men tried to sue the accuser in civil court. They would have to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the accusation was false. Or better yet, imagine that they took on a private criminal case for filing a false report; then they would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accusation was false.

            I would be surprised if they could win in civil court and I’d be amazed if they could win in criminal court. Do you feel differently?

            1. SHG Post author

              That gray area includes the majority of rape cases, to be honest: rape is so difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that convictions are very hard to get.

              This is why it’s never a good idea to comment while drunk, high on drugs or factually clueless.

              I’ve already explained it, but I cannot understand it for you. On the bright side, you aren’t a criminal defense lawyer. On the dark side, you are a lawyer. Perhaps you should consider taking a CLE that isn’t about marketing? As I wrote earlier, it’s a fairly nuanced concept, and very difficult for some people to understand.

  2. Marc R

    She says they raped her. Jury returns NG. Scott says he’s innocent, while Scott’s debater says we don’t know anything about them being innocent. Obviously her statements don’t become false because the state failed to prove their case. There’s no way to know if she’s lying or not, but legally she is lying otherwise these guys wouldn’t walk.

    I’m assuming Scott’s positions is something akin to these men are just as innocent of raping this woman as he or I. And legally that’s true. I think you are confusing an objective view of whether these guys committed x, y, or z actions which we don’t know and doesn’t matter anymore. At this moment in time, these men have no more legal culpability towards her than I do.

    Did they rape her? Factually/objectively who knows. Legally? No. They are innocent. The verdict forms don’t list innocent but because they don’t a NG must equal innocence in our mind.

    1. SHG Post author

      Not exactly. Other than where DNA factually disproves guilt, an unimpeachable alibi exists or an accuser concedes she lied, there is no way for an accused to prove his factual innocence. Here, they denied they raped the woman, thus not conceding factual guilt and relying on a legal argument for acquittal.

      So, are they forever tainted as “maybe factually guilty and only legally technically innocent” because someone accused them? If so, then defendants will always be “maybe factually guilty” upon accusation, without any hope of every being “in fact” innocent, even though they deny committing a crime and have been acquitted. They are innocent because they are innocent. There can be nothing more to it.

      1. nodandsmile

        They are innocent because they are innocent

        Thank you. I am not surprised this is your POV here, but I am still happy to see it expressed that !A does in fact=B

        IANAL but have argued this point with others and have at other times had to remind myself when thinking of those, especially high-profile, who have been accused.

        1. SHG Post author

          A curious thing happens in high profile cases, where much is written about the case and the defendant creating a sense in distant observers that they “know” things. It’s a delusion, but people thus feel entitled to speak to guilt as if they were actual witnesses and saw what occurred when all they have are third hand accounts filtered through writers and editors. And yet, even smart people can’t seem to withstand the pressure to believe they know what they’re talking about.

  3. Marc R

    I agree. I just think the guy arguing his point was making the nuance that the truth of the situation isn’t affected by the state failing to secure a guilty verdict. Of course these 2 guys must be considered innocent. She accused them, they countered her accusation, and the court determined they aren’t guilty. Did they in fact harm her? Maybe. Should they be viewed by society as merely not guilty versus innocent? No, they are 100% innocent and just as liable to her as I am.

    1. SHG Post author

      I appreciate Bl1y’s point. It creates a conundrum, that an allegation is assumed true (or at least true enough to taint) while an acquittal is assumed inadequate. Either way, it leaves the acquitted defendant in a perpetual state of doubt as to the truth, about which he can do nothing and for which he will suffer forever. The nuanced assumptions are untenable, and the faux distinction must end.

      1. ppnl

        Well but there is a high barrier to convictions as there should be. That high barrier simply isn’t applicable almost anywhere else. In fact it is more often inverted.

        Would you hire a person acquitted of molesting children to babysit your children? I suspect not despite the fact that many people have had their lives ruined by false accusations.

        The high barrier to conviction is a limitation on government, a negative liberty. The perpetual state of doubt is just the normal human condition. Government is required to assume innocence but people are not so limited by either law, logic or morality. I can reasonably suspect that O.J. was in fact guilty even if a court found him not guilty.

        It’s an imperfect world.

        1. SHG Post author

          The perpetual state of doubt is just the normal human condition.

          True, but this is a bug, not a feature. We act in self-protection for good, bad or no reason, under the better safe than sorry philosophy. And so we sacrifice others for our own benefit, regardless of whether they deserve it. It’s just selfishness and self-protection. But because we personally do selfish things doesn’t make them right.

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