Slate on False Accusations of Rape

Trigger warning for rape. Note: rape apologist bullshit in the comments is NOT ALLOWED.  

Slate has a fascinating article about how Virginia has DNA evidence that may prove that dozens of men were convicted of crimes that they did not commit. In September 2004, the governor of Virginia ordered a random audit of 31 criminal cases when a trove of old biological evidence was found; as it happens, those 31 criminal cases included two rapists who didn’t actually commit the rape. In late 2005, the governor, kind of embarrassed by the “shit, we accidentally convicted the wrong people” thing, ordered that every sample obtained between 1973 and 1988 be rechecked.

Virginia’s program is highly mysterious: however, sources suggest that more than seventy people have been proven not to convict the crime they were accused of. However, only a handful of the falsely convicted have received the exonerations they deserve. Two people have been formally exonerated; one man, deceased, has had his name cleared of the rape he didn’t commit; a fourth is currently being processed.

The problem? The Department of Forensic Science was in charge of notifying prosecutors and police. Lawyers who were in charge of notifying the accused people that they were being retested were told not to explain the letter, which was written in legal jargon, so most people had no idea what it meant and were just freaked out that the state was apparently reopening their cases. Jonathan Sheldon, a lawyer, has devoted a lot of effort to getting the seventy names and tracking down people who were exonerated to tell them what’s going on.

What strikes me about this story is the true epidemic of false rape accusations: not people who pretend that consensual sex is rape, nor people who make up that someone had sex with them, but people who were legitimately raped and accused the wrong person. There are lots of reasons why someone might be mistaken about the identity of their rapist: eyewitness evidence is notoriously unreliable. Some circumstances around rapes– from being passed out to being very drunk or high, from the stress of being a rape survivor to being raped by an acquaintance or stranger– may make identification even more difficult.

Not only is this bad from the “an innocent person is imprisoned” point of view, it’s also bad because a rapist has gone free. And since most rapes are committed by repeat rapists, it’s likely the rapist went on to rape again. On a practical level, the misidentification of rapists (along with people who have committed other crimes, such as murder) is much easier to eliminate than other forms of false accusation.

In the United States, The Innocence Project has been working to exonerate people who have been accused of crimes they didn’t commit: over 250 people have been exonerated due to DNA evidence since 1989. Only four of the exonerated people were women, because men are more likely to commit and be convicted for sex crimes or violent crimes. They also lobby for reforms to confession, eyewitness identification, evidence preservation, etc. that can make sure that the mostly men who are accused of crimes they did not commit can get justice.

Have I mentioned how much I fucking love that organization? I fucking love that organization.

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Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at ozyfrantz@gmail.com or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. Robert Franklin says:

    Of 287 people found to be factually innocent and exonerated by the work of the Innocence Project, 237 (82.6%) had been convicted of rape, sexual assault, sexual battery or other sex crimes. One of those wrongly convicted of rape was a woman. Of the 287 exonerated, 4 were women.

  2. Call be crazy, but I’m betting more mainstream feminism blogs aren’t going to cover this article. Because it’s about the menz. A quick Google indicates the only thing in VA they’re currently concerned with is the controversy over the abortion bill.

  3. Typical mindset: “Falsely imprisoned? Whatever, I’m sure he’s guilty of something. Look at his long record of prior convictions.” Especially if he’s black.

  4. dancinbojangles says:

    @L: Well, I can agree that we could focus on cutting sentences for non-violent crimes initially. However, I’m not saying we should just cut sentences for violent offenders full stop. I think we need to reform the very idea of the justice system to focus on societal benefit and the safety of future victims, rather than revenge for past victims. We can quibble about term length, certainly, and I accept your point of view, even if I disagree with it. That said, things like permanent disenfranchisement and employment discrimination need to end.

  5. @Schala:
    “It could have been 18 yo to 16 yo consensual sexual contact or rape of an adult.”

    Or Public Exposure by some poor guy who went for a leak behind a tree and was seen by peeping kids. He’s now marked as “OMG pedophile rapist” for life because he couldn’t hold it.

  6. @Michael: First ALL eyewitness testimony is questionable. People can easily recall something poorly, and leading questions change what they remember as well. Two, children are especially easily confused, which shouldn’t be surprising its not like we act like children have the mental abilities of adults in any other area.
    The third area of worry is especially for children is adults influencing a child’s memory. This is possible even with adults, and children are already not at the mental level of an adult, are conditioned to trust adults, and are all in all much more susceptible to influence. Even just asking leading questions of a child can influence what they remember.
    Look I’m sorry the facts don’t support what you would like to believe about the world. But women and children are not reliable witnesses on the account of them being human.

  7. “@dancinbojangles: And there is a lot of work to be done that doesn’t involve drastically cutting prison sentences for violent crimes. (Sentences for non-violent crimes should be mostly done away with, imo.) What you’re saying is like “before we can train the lion not to bite your head off, you need to get it used to having your head in its mouth”.”

    We should:

    1) Get rid of long sentences for petty crimes, instead having rehabilitation for first offense violent non-murder crimes, assault crimes and drug or money-related crimes. Rehabilitation including heavy restrictions for a time (being on parole or at an halfway house, sort of).

    2) Remove the publicness of the register of sex offenders. REGARDLESS of the offense, people immediately think: Pedophile! My (very young) children will be raped! It could have been 18 yo to 16 yo consensual sexual contact or rape of an adult. They won’t care. It makes the convicted unable to find a place to live, unable to find a place to work – and as such, highly susceptible to commit other crimes (like thievery) just to feed themselves (because food costs money, and being unemployable means no legal money).

    3) Remove the right for employers to look up or ask for criminal antecedents unless they have a right to (because it’s a job involving security clearance, or especially vulnerable populations, like the elderly, the very young, and minor students). Or else you’re throwing rehabilitation aims out the window: It becomes 1 conviction, no (legal) job ever. Guess what they’ll do instead? Prostitution and drug selling, jobs that don’t care about your backstory. Sort of what trans people are forced to do in certain countries (like Brazil, Thailand), because they’re not accepted as the sex they identify as legally, ever, and it makes others squeamish of that…enough to never employ them except in shadier stuff.

  8. @dancinbojangles: And there is a lot of work to be done that doesn’t involve drastically cutting prison sentences for violent crimes. (Sentences for non-violent crimes should be mostly done away with, imo.) What you’re saying is like “before we can train the lion not to bite your head off, you need to get it used to having your head in its mouth”.

  9. This is a little absurd. There is forensic evidence that it is reasonable to doubt the courts.

  10. “So… considering that these 214 samples are essentially random, doesn’t this suggest that 1 in 3 rape convictions in Virginia are wrongful convictions? That is horrific.”

    And doesn’t this proportionality, generally speaking, in itself constitute “reasonable doubt” in the remainder of the mentioned cases? The roughly 600 ones where there was testable DNA but the quality of the samples were not in sufficient condition to yield accurate results?

    Meaning the convictions of 400 actual rapist and 200 falsely convicted individuals should, by general legal principles, be overturned?

    Putting a lot (those of them still in jail) of rapists back on the street, to, at least in some cases, rape again?

    Shit, this is difficult.

  11. All Contraire says:

    Tim Cole was a young African-American army veteran and student at Texas Tech U. who was convicted for raping a fellow student in 1985 and sentenced to 25 years based solely on his identification by the victim, and despite overwhelming evidence that he didn’t do it. He didn’t; but his complete exoneration came too late. Tim, by all accounts exactly the type of male role model the Black community is sorely missing, died in prison in 1999.

  12. dancinbojangles says:

    @Michael: It’s not just women and children though. ALL eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and women and children’s testimony is no exception. A witness continuing to uphold his statement is not proof that their testimony was accurate. Indeed, there have been cases of DNA evidence exonerating people that eyewitnesses were certain beyond a shadow of doubt were guilty. Certainly, there are sure to be false negatives as well as false positives, and that’s a problem too. However, it’s not the problem that the innocence project addresses.

  13. Sure but representatives of the Innocence Project do not simply rely on DNA evidence for appeals and acquittals – they also claim that women’s and children’s testimony of sexual violence cannot be trusted, and they do so in ways that resonate with long-standing stereotypes of children and women as fantasists, liars, confabulators and so on.

    The DNA angle provides something of a smokescreen of a set of attitudes about allegations of sexual abuse/rape that I think could do with much more critical scrutiny. The Innocence Project has been involved in overturning the prosecutions of men accused of sexual abuse where there was no DNA evidence adduced in court, on the grounds that the testimony of the child witnesses was unsafe. And they have done this while those child witnesses (sometimes now adults) have continued to uphold the veracity of their statements.

  14. dancinbojangles says:

    @L: I think you’re missing my point a little. I think that our prison system and the harsh punishments we impose on people are major causes of the culture of violence, and do more harm than good in the near-term. Seeing as prison reform is a matter of law, not personal opinion, it’s a huge thing that we can agitate for and which will affect real change. Saying that we should only change prison sentences after changing our culture is kind of like saying that you’ll eat out exclusively until you graduate Le Cordon Bleu, to my mind.

    @Ally Fogg: I’ll bet a ton. Might be offensive to some, but seeing how many black people are in prison, not to mention the interchangeability of black people to police generally, I’d be shocked if they aren’t over-represented.

  15. @Dancinbojangles:

    Oh I’m not saying to lay down and take it, just… expect to be mad as hell and putting up a fight 99.99999% of the time, and ushering in any sort of change 0.00001% of the time. If you’re lucky. 😛 (Sad that I consider myself an optimist, huh.)

    Re: Scandanavia; not fetishizing them (those countries certainly have drawbacks despite all of their many… many advancements), just pointing out that different countries have different cultures and you can’t just do away with that overnight. The best example I can think up for what I’m getting at is the bit from Bowling for Columbine where they go and compare Detroit and Windsor; two towns from different countries, each one a stone’s throw away from the other. And the difference between them is like night and day. How do you “fix” that? It takes generations to change the beliefs of an entire population of people.

    So yeah, until we get there, I want my violent criminals off the streets because I don’t trust them anywhere else. Fix the culture and THEN we’ll talk.

  16. The other case mentioned in my first post (the case where the abuse occurred 36 years prior):

    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/154316-policeman-charged-with-rape/
    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/east-central/260309-police-officer-on-trial-for-rape-of-sisters-36-years-ago/
    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/east-central/260469-policeman-on-trial-accused-of-rape/
    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/east-central/260890-police-officer-found-guilty-of-raping-young-sisters-when-he-was-14/
    http://news.stv.tv/scotland/east-central/265666-policeman-who-raped-two-young-sisters-36-years-ago-jailed/

    Now for the question that I’m sure no one wants to hear: If a case like this was a false accusation (I’m not saying it was, though it’s really impossible to know for sure with a total lack of objective evidence), how could one possibly defend against it?

  17. Can I ask a question which may be slightly ignorant and offensive to some? An ill-informed British perspective, with apologies

    Looking at the Slate article, the main guy featured in the piece is black. I’d be really interested to know what percentage of the guys we’re talking about here are also black. Bearing in mind Virginia’s reputation and history, how likely is it that these appalling statistics can be explained by racism? ie, how often in recent decades was there a report of a rape, and the police reaction was just to grab some random black guy, cook up some evidence, put him in front of an all-white jury and bang, down he goes.

    And yes, my knowledge of these issues is mostly drawn from To Kill A Mockingbird, I admit.

  18. dancinbojangles says:

    @Lamech: Nice, I especially like the separating forensics from the police idea.

  19. @schadrach:

    You see that a lot, especially among certain feminist blogs. There’s one on the blogroll here in particular I got a dose of irony out of when they went on about the Innocence Project and the great work it does, given they’ve outright stated their firm belief in the whole accusation = guilt thing, while making any mention of any counterexample a bannable offense. Not going to name names.

    It’s kind of sad I instantly thought of at least three candidates.

    I found two articles on Feministe. One was on the Duke Lacrosse case, and the blogger refused to withdraw their claim that the girls who had supported the suspects boys knew what they were talking about, and treated it like a personal affront that people kept telling her she was wrong to say women who probably knew the suspects personally were “uninformed”. In another, about the Hofstra case, which had similar circumstances, the blogger said they wanted to talk about the “bigger picture”. The only substantial difference between the two cases was that the accused at Duke were white and the accused in Hofstra were black. And in both threads, the regulars were perfectly willing to start on about how we “don’t really know what happened” when it looked like the rape didn’t happen.

  20. @dancinbojangles:”Well yeah, but I was kind of looking for something more specific along the lines of @Druk’s link.”
    Well for starters we need to have a half decent system for compensating people who are falsely accused of crimes. If they spent time in jail that needs to be paid for. If they hired a lawyer that needs to be paid for. If they lost their job due to not being able to make it to work that needs to be paid for. This whole thing where people are acquitted but went bankrupt in the process is just silly. If the state took your house because they wanted to build a highway they need to pay you. But if the state takes your house because they falsely accused you of a crime?

    For the actual not falsely convicting someone, I would recommend a number of things. 1) The witness identification changes. 2) Separate forensics from the police. They should not work together. They should analyze evidence from crime scenes, and investigate crime scenes when asked to by either the defense or the prosecution. However they shouldn’t actually be working for them. Implicit in this is providing the defense with better resources for getting the facts that would exonerate their client. 3) Convince jurors (read the public) not to trust liars, or people that think lying is okay. If someone thinks that lying is a-okay don’t trust them. I only mention this because I see (at least in the media) the idea of interrogators lying to suspects. I for one will take anyone who does that or is okay with said lies, with more than a grain of salt. 4) Record all interrogations. There is no possible way this is too much of a burden. It should be done. 5) Better looking into corrupt/dishonest cops. Actually prosecute things like police brutality instead of some half-assed disciplinary hearing. Lying on police reports, hiding evidence from the prosecution OR the defense, use of force not justified by the law ect. These things should be crimes and dealt with as such. If someone is willing to fix a ticket, I don’t trust them not too plant evidence.

  21. What strikes me about this story is the true epidemic of false rape accusations: not people who pretend that consensual sex is rape, nor people who make up that someone had sex with them, but people who were legitimately raped and accused the wrong person.

    We do not know that. Many rape cases do not have any DNA evidence to test, so there would be nothing to find five or ten years later to exonerate an innocent man. That is part of the problem. The cases where there is no evidence or the evidence was conveniently lost or destroyed, innocent men will remain in prison and keep the false stain on their record.

    What the article does show is an epidemic of indifference and self-protection in law enforcement and the judicial system. Far too many officials seem more concerned with protecting their careers and reputation than making sure they did not send innocent people to prison. If people cared about that we might see a change, but most people are not really bothered by the thought of innocent people rotting in prison, unless it happens to them.

    On a practical level, the misidentification of rapists (along with people who have committed other crimes, such as murder) is much easier to eliminate than other forms of false accusation.

    That assumes that most false accusations are actually misidentification. We do not know  if that is the case, so we should not think that we can stop false accusations by just checking the accused’s DNA.

  22. @Schala:

    Look at California trying to justify a sexist measure to get women out of prison, based on them ostensibly being primary caregivers of children (they changed the wording to that to appear less sexist, they still only want it to apply to women). Or the UK having a Baroness saying that women’s prisons are useless, we should have reform centers for women, let’s convert women’s prisons into men’s prisons, (and the subtext is that men can’t be reformed).

    Didn’t that one originally apply to “mothers” until they realized that it would be thrown out as an equal protection failure and changed it to “primary caregivers” more or less at the last minute? Then of course, they turn and only want to offer it in women’s prisons, thus making it for “mothers” without actually saying it in the law.

    That kind of thing is a shockingly common tactic (write law to say one thing, with the understanding that it’s only meant a certain way and only execute the law in that way — this is why the parts of VAWA that do use gender-neutral language still only really benefit women, and why other laws disproportionately target specific racial groups [like that Arizona immigration bill that was so controversial — everyone knew it was only going to be actually enforced on Mexicans], and so on).

  23. dancinbojangles says:

    @Lamech: Well yeah, but I was kind of looking for something more specific along the lines of @Druk’s link.

  24. @dancinbojangles: “Still, I don’t want to neglect any real change we can make by pining uselessly for some imagined revolution. Anyone have any ideas that might help work within the system to prevent such issues? Because I’m at a loss.”
    Well you see we’re in this thing called a democracy (if you are not in a democracy I recommend overthrow and starting a democracy, assuming you can do so safely)…
    @L: “Also, you’re right… there’d be a huge call to action if it were a women’s issue, but you honestly think it would change anything?”
    I recall mentioned somewhere a law had been passed about barring male prison guards from doing certain parts of their job with females, but not visa versa. And I see a constant stream of resources (and some other significantly less savory tactics), to help women avoid domestic violence convictions from various groups. So yes if this was a women’s issue, I certainly do believe that significantly more resources would be provided.

  25. dancinbojangles says:

    @L: Dang, and I thought I was being cynical! Yes, actually. I do think, despite what people may believe, that calls to action and, more importantly, sustained actual action do make a difference. Moreover, I think the notion that “we can’t change anything, so why bother” is a dangerous attitude and a self-fulfilling prophecy. We might not be able to make the world perfect overnight, but don’t pretend that societal change cannot happen, never happens, or is somehow precluded due to some vague notion of society’s modern nature. Giving up and laying down may be easier, and activism may be hard. It may take decades to enact the changes we want. But in a nation where your vote counts and you have the right to protest, fatalism is not a valid excuse for failing to do so.

    Regarding Scandinavian laws: I think it’s interesting that people can essentially fetishize Scandinavia and decry the laws that make it the way it is in the same breath. Scandinavia isn’t awesome because they’re just better, it’s awesome because its people and its government toiled and continue to toil at making their countries better! Take their education system: It sucked for a long time, they acknowledged that, worked out the best way to change it, and enacted that change. It might be harder to do that in a country of 300+ million, but once again don’t pretend it isn’t possible just because society.

    Regarding punishment: Honestly, I’m not cool with it either, but therein lies the problem. We should not assuage our egos and senses of justice at the expense of creating a more peaceful society. Once again, I really doubt that Scandinavians are just superior people. Their low rates of crime and especially of recidivism are directly correlated with the implementation of a justice system focusing on rehabilitation and re-integration. Certainly our culture is a part of it, but when, after being released from jail, convicts have few options except returning to crime, it becomes more likely they will return to crime. Granted, this point is more about crimes of desperation and poverty than rape. However, I still think that a rehabilitation approach would be more effective in that case.

  26. “Also, you’re right… there’d be a huge call to action if it were a women’s issue, but you honestly think it would change anything? I don’t. Look how huge our “calls to action” have been with just about every single anti-woman measure currently being introduced in the world of politics, and the best we can accomplish is almost get a radio host off the air. Let’s just say that if this were a woman’s issue, it’d take way longer before we even remembered that exonerating accused criminals based on DNA evidence were a thing we could possibly do when our caseloads are maybe a little lighter at some point.”

    Look at California trying to justify a sexist measure to get women out of prison, based on them ostensibly being primary caregivers of children (they changed the wording to that to appear less sexist, they still only want it to apply to women). Or the UK having a Baroness saying that women’s prisons are useless, we should have reform centers for women, let’s convert women’s prisons into men’s prisons, (and the subtext is that men can’t be reformed).

  27. It feels unjust, hearing about Norwegian rapists who only get short sentences and are fully reintegrated into society afterwards, but it is undoubtedly to the benefit of society as a whole, and certainly of benefit to anyone who might be falsely accused. We kind of need to get over this frontier justice/revenge mentality. Also, it may sound cynical, but I think that if this were an issue that disproportionately affected women, there would be a ton more outrage and a much bigger call to action.

    I dunno about you, but I’m not sure I’d be totally cool with violent criminals getting away with a slap on the back of the hand before getting turned back out onto the streets. There are a lot of fucked up things about our justice and prison system, but I don’t think shorter sentences for rapists, batterers, assailants and murderers is a good thing. I mean, for one thing, America is a way more batshit insane culture when it comes to crime and violence compared to most European/Scanadavian countries anyways.

    Also, you’re right… there’d be a huge call to action if it were a women’s issue, but you honestly think it would change anything? I don’t. Look how huge our “calls to action” have been with just about every single anti-woman measure currently being introduced in the world of politics, and the best we can accomplish is almost get a radio host off the air. Let’s just say that if this were a woman’s issue, it’d take way longer before we even remembered that exonerating accused criminals based on DNA evidence were a thing we could possibly do when our caseloads are maybe a little lighter at some point.

  28. dancinbojangles says:

    @Shadrach: Oof, that is some heavy reading. The more I think of it, the less I’m inclined to think we can change much without a comprehensive reform of our entire justice system, as well as some societal conditioning to accept the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” to a greater degree, especially among legal professionals. Given things like your link, social workers who coerce children into making accusations of rape against their parents, and police who pressure victims into making an identification, the problem seems systemic. It feels unjust, hearing about Norwegian rapists who only get short sentences and are fully reintegrated into society afterwards, but it is undoubtedly to the benefit of society as a whole, and certainly of benefit to anyone who might be falsely accused. We kind of need to get over this frontier justice/revenge mentality. Also, it may sound cynical, but I think that if this were an issue that disproportionately affected women, there would be a ton more outrage and a much bigger call to action.

    Still, I don’t want to neglect any real change we can make by pining uselessly for some imagined revolution. Anyone have any ideas that might help work within the system to prevent such issues? Because I’m at a loss.

  29. @Ally:

    But all too often it’s seemed like the only way of combating that people have found is to turn that around completely and pretend that any time a person is charged with rape they must have completed it!

    You see that a lot, especially among certain feminist blogs. There’s one on the blogroll here in particular I got a dose of irony out of when they went on about the Innocence Project and the great work it does, given they’ve outright stated their firm belief in the whole accusation = guilt thing, while making any mention of any counterexample a bannable offense. Not going to name names.

    Honestly, it seems like the only fair way to do things is to accept the victim’s victimization at face value as far as counceling and services are concerned, but investigate thoroughly and strictly uphold the rights of the accused when prosecuting. Even then, the accusation itself causes harm, and there needs to be a way to mitigate that.

    @Jared:

    So… considering that these 214 samples are essentially random, doesn’t this suggest that 1 in 3 rape convictions in Virginia are wrongful convictions? That is horrific.

    Yes, it does. Yes, it is.

    The article is about false rape conviction, which is the (pointy horrible) tip of the iceberg with respec to false accusations, whose harms are not eliminated by aquital.

    You mean the part where they lose their jobs, friends, and more or less anything else that resembles a support structure in their lives, *and* get to show up as a rapist for anyone who searches their name forever just to amke it that much harder to pick up the pieces (remember, even in a proven false accusation, the accuser is still the “victim” and the falsely accused is at best the “alleged rapist” in the media)? Whyever would that be meaningful? =/

    @dancinbojangles:

    Is someone likely to be convicted based solely on eyewitness testimony from the victim?

    It takes some damn spiteful behavior to do something like that and see it through to conviction, not to mention an even bigger miscarriage of justice than the issue raised in this article.

    See: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-accused-20110626,0,7042051.story http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/27/local/la-me-accused-20110628 for one case.

    Another I’d draw attention to (but don’t have a link on hand for, I’ll track it down if you’d like) was a case last year in which two sisters accused a man of raping them. 36 years prior, when they were children, and the man was their 14 year old babysitter. No evidence on their behalf but their own testimony, and nothing to support him aside from a total lack of corroboration and his own testimony (certainly no physical evidence at all after 36 years). I think it’s impossible to know for sure what happened in that case, since all you have is the sisters saying it happened and the accused saying it didin’t.

  30. @The Goldfish:
    A victim pointing a finger is not the only way to catch a rapist – I imagine in many cases, the falsely convicted men were just unlucky enough to fit the description, or be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or tick other boxes that make people vulnerable to being falsely accused and it was the police that made the mistake.

    Exact, many rapists wear a mask to not be identified, so it’s possible that the wrong person is accused.

  31. “…but people who were legitimately raped and accused the wrong person.”

    A victim pointing a finger is not the only way to catch a rapist – I imagine in many cases, the falsely convicted men were just unlucky enough to fit the description, or be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or tick other boxes that make people vulnerable to being falsely accused and it was the police that made the mistake.

    I think this is important because you’re in danger of discrediting rape victims whose testimony was rock solid, but had no reason to suspect that the cops had pulled in the wrong guy. Not that victims don’t make mistakes for the reasons you outline and more, just that here, they might not have.

  32. jesus_marley says:

    addendum – I guess I’m just feeling a little sensitive to the subject right about now. It’s probably another good reason why you shouldn’t drink and blog.

  33. jesus_marley says:

    I didn’t intend to imply that this article was bad. In fact I think that it is awesome that the reality of false convictions are being acknowledged and even better that they are being overturned. I still worry when I see that kind of wording though. It’s very easy to slip back into traditional feminist narratives regarding men, violence and rape. I didn’t mean to outright launch an accusation at Ozy for doing so, I was asking more for clarification purposes.

  34. dancinbojangles says:

    Yeesh, that’s a lot of people wrongly convicted… It’s a good thing that DNA testing exists now, but I wonder about cases where there’s no DNA evidence. Then again, I’m not really up to date on my rape conviction statistics. Is someone likely to be convicted based solely on eyewitness testimony from the victim?

    This is a major problem, I imagine, in the US justice system as a whole, given the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and how much weight it’s given in trial. Certainly, measures such as the one described by @druk will probably help; Perhaps that will have to be good enough.

    @Jared and Jesus_Marley: I don’t think anyone’s denying that deliberate false accusations do occur. In fact, NSWATM has had at least one story with a personal account thereof. However, seeing as trials of any kind are an ordeal for all parties, I’m of the opinion that Ozy’s assumption is likely correct. It takes some damn spiteful behavior to do something like that and see it through to conviction, not to mention an even bigger miscarriage of justice than the issue raised in this article.

    Also, I don’t think that Ozy’s statement regarding men’s rates of criminality is unreasonable. The intention was surely to demonstrate the extent to which this is a men’s issue specifically, and to give the reason why. Thinking of it in any other way is uncharitable in the extreme. And honestly, complaining about minor issues of wording and tone is one of the major problems I have with similar feminist discourse. We should be able to work toward a common goal, even at the expense of a little discomfort, without using the same words and having all the same ideas. Even if Ozy did in fact think that all men are uncontrollable beasts (which seems unlikely, you have to admit), that doesn’t change the fact that this is a win both for the men who were exonerated and for men everywhere. If this imaginary bigoted hateful Ozy wants to help with that, then that’s cool with me.

  35. “I take no position on one side of the fence on the other as to what may be the primary causal factor in false accusations, but I can’t see any evidence to support your doing so either. Also I have to quaestion your use of “accusation” here. The article is about false rape conviction, which is the (pointy horrible) tip of the iceberg with respec to false accusations, whose harms are not eliminated by aquital.”

    Hmm, on further thought I realise you made the not unreasonable jump that if there was the wrong DNA than it must be misidentification. Even if DNA testing were not in use at the time then this is likely more ttue than not. My own view is biased on this point due to personal experience with a deliberatly false accusation involving DNA exoneration.

  36. “According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the state located approximately 800 biological samples of DNA that could be tested. Of those, only 214 were in sufficient condition to yield accurate results. Among these, more than 70 people—one commonly cited figure is 79—appear to have been excluded as the perpetrators of a crime.”

    So… considering that these 214 samples are essentially random, doesn’t this suggest that 1 in 3 rape convictions in Virginia are wrongful convictions? That is horrific.

    Also, I’ve got to agree with Jesus. Consider a case where a woman is wrongfully convicted of making a false allegation of rape. You’d hit the bloody roof if an article on that pointed out that most false accusations are levelled by women.

    Further, my reading of the slate article did not find anything which supported your statement:

    “What strikes me about this story is the true epidemic of false rape accusations: not people who pretend that consensual sex is rape, nor people who make up that someone had sex with them, but people who were legitimately raped and accused the wrong person.”

    I take no position on one side of the fence on the other as to what may be the primary causal factor in false accusations, but I can’t see any evidence to support your doing so either. Also I have to quaestion your use of “accusation” here. The article is about false rape conviction, which is the (pointy horrible) tip of the iceberg with respec to false accusations, whose harms are not eliminated by aquital.

  37. @Ozy: “Only four of the exonerated people were women, because men are more likely to commit and be convicted for sex crimes or violent crimes. ”
    The difference in the number of the genders exonerated is almost entirely due to conviction rates NOT rates of committing the crime. Recall the CDC study? If the conviction rate was proportional too the committing rate it would be reasonably close to gender parity.

    “What strikes me about this story is the true epidemic of false rape accusations: not people who pretend that a rape is consensual sex, nor people who make up that someone had sex with them, but people who were legitimately raped and accused the wrong person.” I assume you flipped “a rape” and “consensual sex”. While this certainly is an epidemic (7%!) that doesn’t mean you can’t have other epidemics. If you devise a test that can only find one kind of mistake that doesn’t mean other mistakes are impossible. I mean for starters you wouldn’t assume that this only held in cases with DNA evidence for example. Yes this is a problem and needs to be fixed (nor is it even particularly hard to make huge gains in this area), but one problem does not preclude others.

  38. jesus_marley says:

    A couple of things jumped out at me when reading this. I hope that I am merely misreading because the implications if I am not really scare me.
    1) “What strikes me about this story is the true epidemic of false rape accusations: not people who pretend that a rape is consensual sex…”

    The last part of this quote is what scares me. I pray to all that is holy that you made a mistake and meant to say “…pretend that consensual sex is rape…” because otherwise the implications are horrifying.

    2) “Only four of the exonerated people were women, because men are more likely to commit and be convicted for sex crimes or violent crimes.”

    In an article that highlights the false imprisonment of hundreds of men (if not thousands), you make it a point to state that men commit a majority of crimes. I don’t understand why you feel the need to include such a statement when the article is obviously pointing to the reality that a surprising number of people who were convicted DID NOT commit a crime. It seems to me that this is apologism in its purist form. Basically saying that even though innocent men are being convicted, men are still violent animals. just look at how many are convicted!

    honestly, I am losing faith rapidly that this was ever a place that truly stood up for men. Even when you point out the injustices men face on a daily basis, there is always a caveat that men are still evil, but here we believe they are redeemable.

  39. One state is attempting to cut down on misidentifications by doing sequential, instead of simultaneous, lineups.
    (via cotwa.info)
    http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2012/03/17/news/doc4f63d4b9ceadb590562607.txt

  40. I saw an article about having to do with FBI, DNA, and men convicted of rape and later found innocent (based on DNA, witnesses coming forward, etc). The resulting statistics were that about 25% of men convicted of rape were innocent, and most of that was due to faulty procedure not false accusations (eg the women were indeed raped, but then pressured into making a false ID).

    Now I can’t find it. 🙁

  41. Guh, can I just saw how incredibly much I love this article?! Obviously, accusations of any kind of violent crimes are serious matters, and clearly we don’t exactly have the best history of dealing with women making rape charges. (Or men, for that matter, but that’s another thing.) But all too often it’s seemed like the only way of combating that people have found is to turn that around completely and pretend that any time a person is charged with rape they must have completed it! It’s such a complicated thing that I can’t believe I’m applauding someone for taking the stance of ‘this is a serious matter on all sides so all we can do is try to find out the truth as best as possible and avoid making any snap judgments before that’ as opposed to, y’know, that just being obviously the right conclusion from the beginning, and yet here I am. Seriously, it just never fails to shock me how willing people are to watch, what, one short about a trial on the news (which has so much to gain from getting people passionate about a case so they keep tuning in to find out what happens) and then just automatically decide one way or another, without ever considering that they might actually not know all the details of the case ever!

    Once again NSWATM manages to hit that precise sweet spot of balance without jumping to oversimplified conclusions! Absolutely wonderful!

  42. Its good that this is happening. As we can see there is a bit of a problem with men being put away for crimes they didn’t commit (whether the crime actually happened or not).

    In late 2005, the governor, kind of embarrassed by the “shit, we accidentally convicted the wrong people” thing, ordered that every sample obtained between 1973 and 1988 be rechecked.
    And its good to see that things seem to be getting better on this end. Politicians/lawyers don’t like copping to fucking up when it comes to convictions in the first place and they especially don’t like copping to fucking up when it comes to crimes like rape and murder.

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