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Friday Roundup

Isaac was charged with three counts of rape, one of aggravated robbery, and two of kidnapping, all with three-year firearm specs.  They were offering us one rape and one attempted robbery, each with specs.  The offenses wouldn't have merged.

If it hadn't been for the video, I probably would have told Isaac to take the deal.

The 21-year-old girl's version was that Isaac, a black boy of 17, came up behind her on the street and put a gun to her.  He took her purse, then told her to walk like they were a couple.  He took her behind a warehouse and raped her orally, vaginally, and anally, then walked her back out, where he let her go.  She ran to a local store, called her boyfriend, and he and his roommate picked her up and drove her home.  Her father called 911, EMS and the cops was there in minutes, and she was taken to the hospital.  Three months later, she picked his photo out of a lineup, saying she was 60% certain it was him.

Not the worst case to defend, except for the part where I have to explain why they found semen with his DNA in her butt.

Along the side of the warehouse, though, were surveillance cameras.  While the act was done out of the camera's sight, we had ample footage of Isaac and the girl walking back behind the warehouse, and then walking back out from it, from various views. 

The first time I saw the video, I knew it couldn't have happened the way she said.

It was the video of them walking out, viewed from the front at a height and distance of about twenty feet, that did it.  According to her, she had just been anally raped and was experiencing rectal pain of 10 on the 0-10 scale.   She thought that, having finished what he set out to do, he was going to get rid of her: 

"What did you think think he was going to do" as he led her out, the prosecutor asked her.

She choked back a tear and sobbed appropriately, "I thought he was going to kill me."

It wasn't true.  On the video, you see the two of them coming out of the darkness.  She reaches out and briefly touches his arm near the beginning.  Afterward, they don't touch again, but continue strolling along, her arms swinging freely at her side.  My friend Erin, who wound up trying the case with me, picked up something I'd missed:  the last frames showed the girl holding a cigarette casually in her left hand.  I backed up the tape, and sure enough, you could see where she stopped to get out the lighter and cigarette, and the flash when she lit it.

And a few seconds later, where she smoothly slid the lighter back into her purse.

That was the thing.  It's not just that there was no humiliation evident, no pain at having been so violently and personally penetrated. 

There was no fear.  It's unlikely that you'd decide that having just been anally raped and now being led to your death was an appropriate time for a smoke, but, hey, some people smoke to relax, and this was a good time to try to do that.  But there was never a sidelong glance, looking for help or some possible avenue of escape, never a wince, never a hesitation or stumble ...  There was not a single indication in forty seconds of video that this person had the slightest fear for her well-being.

You didn't have to be too bright to figure out that the surveillance video was the weakest link in the state's case, and to hammer at that.  The prosecutor showed the girl the video during her testimony, and had her explain how she was acting this way to keep from getting shot, but I went over it with her, just about frame by frame.  I did the same thing in closing.  The final shot, which stayed on during the prosecutor's close, was the two of them strolling stride by stride, talking with each other, the cigarette dangling casually from her left hand.

The jury was out two days.  The weak point of the state's case was the video.  The strong point was the obvious question in any rape case based on consent:  why would the girl be claiming rape if it didn't happen, especially with somebody she'd never met?  We worked up some other scenarios and tossed them out, but like I told the jury in closing argument, we didn't have to prove anything.  There's no writing portion of a jury verdict.  They don't have to decide "what really happened," they have to decide whether the state proved its version of what happened beyond a reasonable doubt. 

That wound up being enough.

It's funny how things go in cycles.  I got my second acquittal in a rape case in a month.  Last year, the only "not guilty" I heard was in the arraignment room.

I know I said I was going back to five posts a week, but there are only going to be four next week, because this weekend I intend to sit back and kick it.  I won't feel guilty about it.  Oops, there's that word ... 

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