The obvious question is: Why? Why is it that a parent seeking leverage in a custody case can accuse the other spouse of child molestation, and even if the accusations are transparently false, there still is a good chance the other person will be charged with felonies and most likely convicted?
Why is it that a woman can charge a man with rape or sexual assault and no matter how ridiculous or self-serving the accusation might be, the man has a good chance of going to prison, even if everything the prosecutors and accusing witnesses claim is a lie?
The reason is that the United States has undergone a revolution in how the law and the provisions to protect the accused are seen not only by the authorities, but by the law professionals themselves. Perhaps the following passage by Jason Wool in a law journal article says it best:
The essential question is whether the system should be more inclined to protect innocent defendants, sometimes at the expense of women who have been date raped, or whether the system should be designed to ensure that more women's complaints result in convictions at the expense of some innocent men.[Maintaining the Presumption of Innocence in Date Rape Trials Through the Use Of Language Orders: State v. Safi and the Banning of the Word "Rape," 15 Wm. Mary J. of Women & L. 193 (Fall 2008).]
In other words, according to some advocates, innocence really should be no defense at all, and I can say that many American prosecutors, judges, and their allies today share in that view. The presumption of innocence not only is met with scorn, but if they had their way, I believe I can say with confidence that most (but not all) prosecutors in this country believe that if one is charged with a crime, then guilt should be assumed, and there really should be no trial at all, just a plea and then punishment.
Lest one think I am being harsh, this is what Wendy Murphy -- who gave commentary on the Tonya Craft case on NBC's "Today Show" and was portrayed as a "legal expert" -- declared when asked about the presumed innocence of the defendants in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case:
Stop with the presumption of innocence. It doesn't apply [at] Duke, as well as I'm really tired of people suggesting that you're somehow un-American if you don't respect the presumption of innocence, because you know what that sounds like to a victim? Presumption you're a liar.One has to understand that the charges in the Duke case were unquestionably false, yet even afterward, Murphy continued to claim that the families of the accused had paid off Crystal Mangum (which would have been strange, given that Mangum said she wanted to pursue the charges, even after the North Carolina Attorney General declared them unfounded).
Murphy, however, is not a fringe character. She is a regular guest on TV talk shows and is close to Nancy Grace, whose guilt-assuming show on CNN reflects her attitude as a prosecutor who the federal courts declared to be "fast and loose with the facts." I would say that Murphy reflects the mainstream in American law today, or at least the mainstream among American prosecutors.
But it is not the Wendy Murphys who have brought about the sea change in U.S. law, especially in what we would call "sex crimes." It has been both the Congress and the federal bureaucracies that oversee the administration of federal law, and in the past few decades, federal officials have (purposely, I believe) changed the legal landscape to where the imprisonment of innocents is seen as nothing more than "collateral damage" in the crusade to make the country safe for women and children.
There are four laws that have done the most damage to the presumption of innocence, I believe. They are:
- The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), also known as the Mondale Act of 1974;
- The Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990, which gave millions of dollars to the Children's Advocacy Centers around the USA;
- The Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which made the federal government a major player in determining how states would prosecute alleged rape and sexual assault;
- The Victims of Child Abuse Act of 2003, which continued the federal relationship with the various CACs.
The Duke Lacrosse Case
In the spring of 2006, an African-American stripper, Crystal Gail Mangum, accused three Duke University lacrosse players of beating and raping her at a party where she "danced." North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the charges in April 2007, declaring the players "innocent" (a rarity for prosecutors in any kind of criminal case) after his office did an extensive investigation.
However, it was clear from the beginning that the charges were bogus, but they stuck for a number of reasons. First, the national media jumped upon the story and journalists threw all of their own prejudices (white on black, southern school, slavery, you name it) into their coverage and wanted the tale to be true. Second, the politics of Durham, Duke, blacks, and whites drove the "narrative," which turned out to be false.
However, the third factor was the most important of all: the role of federal law in getting the wheels of the case turning. Mangum was found drunk in a car and was taken to a mental health facility called Durham Access. A nurse there improperly asked Mangum, "Were you raped?" (Interviewers are not supposed to ask those questions.)
When Mangum answered that she was (she had not said anything about it before then), federal law mandated that she be taken to a medical facility where she would receive a rape exam either by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or other qualified medical professional. The SANE who would participate in the exam was a feminist ideologue named Tara Levicy, who later would lie and fabricate "evidence" to implicate the lacrosse players.
(After the charges were dismissed, the three players and their families settled with Duke University and Duke University Medical Center -- Levicy's employer -- for a reported seven million dollars apiece. Levicy no longer is employed there, but still works as a nurse in New England.)
One can see how federal policy set this disaster into motion, but this was not an isolated case, at least where the federal government and false accusations are concerned. In tomorrow's post, I will show how federal policies are driving false allegations of child abuse and molestation, and there is no end in sight to this American tragedy.