Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
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The American Bar Association in its Model Rules states that “in the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person” but lawyers in fact often deliberately lie in court, and most of the time they get away with it. Suppose a woman accuses a man of rape. He’s on trial. It’s the defense attorney’s job to attack the credibility of the accuser, even if he knows her to be a truth-teller. “It’s trial by verbal combat. After all as those ABA Model Rules state, “as advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system.” So the defender attacks the rape victim with innuendo, trickery, accusation—anything to shake her or, if possible, reduce her to incoherence. Legal scholar Franklin Strier has observed that in court “trial lawyers . . . are largely unanswerable to society for behavior that would be morally questionable elsewhere.” Turns out that “due process trumps honesty and ordinary justice.” It’s of course one reason a lot of rape never gets even reported, let alone tried. Victims of rape know they would be in a terrible position on the stand with the rapist’s attorney battering her with a second violation of her privacy. If the rapist is acquitted, and it comes to light that one reason he was acquitted is that his attorney lied, the defendant will stay free. He cannot by law be tried more than once for the same crime.