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Charges Filed 32 Years After Alleged Rape Have Now Been Dropped:

The Providence Journal reports:

The attorney general's office yesterday dropped a case against a 48-year-old Narragansett man who had been charged with raping a woman 32 years ago when both he and the alleged victim were 16 years old.... The case against [the man] was based on memories that the alleged victim had repressed until recently, and a spokesman for [Attorney General] Lynch's office said state prosecutors did not believe that her testimony would be allowed in court....

The dismissal form cites a 1996 Rhode Island Supreme Court case, State v. Quattrocchi, which requires any case that relies on repressed memory to have a pre-trial hearing on the evidence. "The State dismisses despite its belief that the allegation made by the victim and corroborated by independent evidence established probable cause. However, the high burden for admissibility, at trial, of testimony based on repressed memory as set forth by the court in Quattrocchi provides a legal impediment that the state is unlikely to overcome." ...

Although the attorney general's office was familiar with the requirements under Quattrocchi before filing charges against Allen, prosecutors did not consider them until after the indictment against him was returned, said [a spokesman for the Attorney General's office].

Thanks to Brian Bishop for the pointer.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Charges Filed 32 Years After Alleged Rape Have Now Been Dropped:
  2. "Man Charged 32 Years After Alleged Rape":
scote (mail):
It seems odd that in cases where the the punishment is the harshest that we don't have statutes of limitations. Apparently, the more grievous the accusations the less important it is that the defendant have a fair hearing.

Granted I understand why we don't want murders to literally "get away with murder" by dodging authorities for 7 years, but at the same time it seems that murder and rape cases are the most grievous of accusations deserving the fairest of hearings.

It is more than a little ironic that smaller crimes with smaller sentences are required to have a fairer trial than murder and rape.
7.13.2007 9:53pm
ras (mail):
"and corroborated by independent evidence"...?

Did I miss a link somewhere? All I had heard about was the woman's allegedly recovered memory. Was hard evidence brought forward as well?
7.13.2007 9:55pm
SJE:
Do other readers also find disturbing how the State announced that charges were dropped?

They charge a 48yr old man with rape, 32 years later, without considering (a) that the case seems weak, on its face and (b) there is case law against the use of recovered memories. When they drop the charges, it is solely because of the legal impediment of a prior case. No apology, or statement that this was a stupid case in the first place. Essentially, "we the prosecutors have covered our asses, and the only reason we couldnt prosecute because of a technicality."

So, a 48yr old man, who (for all we know) has never done anything bad in his life, is now labelled forever as a rapist.
7.13.2007 10:10pm
Carolina:
Agreed, SJE. It's truly appalling to drop charges and then publicly say "We think he did it, he just can't get him." The whole thing smacks of political grandstanding by the prosecution, who admit they were "familiar with" the ruling in question, but didn't "consider" it until after the guy was indicted.

I'd love to try that one in court someday - "Yes your honor, I was familiar with the deadline for a reply memo, but I hadn't considered it."
7.13.2007 10:17pm
A Guest Of Wind:
Do other readers also find disturbing how the State announced that charges were dropped?

Disturbing? Yes. Surprising? No. But I have practiced criminal defense.

Coming into court to argue a motion to dismiss in a criminal case, I had a prosecutor ask to speak before we proceeded. She then conceded that I was correct - no crime had been committed by my client - and moved for dismissal on behalf of the prosecutor's office. In doing so, she carried on for about fifteen minutes about how awful my client was, how his conduct really should have been a crime (even though it wasn't), and how she wished she could continue to prosecute him. When she was done, the judge simply asked me, "Do you oppose this motion?" (What? No "equal time" for the defense?)

That was perhaps a step down from "We think he did it, he just can't get him."
7.13.2007 10:37pm
SJE:
Prosecutors get blanket immunity from the tort of malicious prosecution. Maybe it is time we reconsider this. Exhibit 1, offered into evidence: Mike Nifong.
7.13.2007 10:48pm
PersonFromPorlock:
But were the prosecutors in this case functioning as prosecutors? If they knowingly indicted someone who could not be brought to trial, in order to punish him by ruining his reputation, weren't they really acting as vigilantes?
7.13.2007 11:10pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
It amazes me that a grand jury would true bill such a charge. I think the grand jury system is meaningless as long as it's ex parte with the prosecutor being the only one who gets to tell the government's side of the story. The defense attorney should be able to put on evidence, if he so chooses, before the grand jury so the GJ can hear both sides of the case before deciding whether to indict or not.

I also wonder, as I often do, what it would take for a prosecutor to DISBELIEVE a rape complainant. Apparently any female who says "I was raped by D" has automatically convinced the prosecutor that D is guilty of rape, no matter what evidence comes forward. DNA doesn't match, well, that doesn't mean D didn't do it, just that someone else got their DNA inside the complainant.

I defended a rape trial about 2 years ago and we presented an audio tape of the "rape victim" yapping on the phone about how she lied about the charges. The jury heard it and my client was acquitted. But the prosecutor still kept fighting at trial for a conviction. After we played the tape, I overheard the prosecutor ask the complainant "did you tell anyone else that [the defendant] did not rape you? We need to know now so we can try to minimize the damage."
7.13.2007 11:41pm
David Walser:
Well, accepting as fact that the prosecutors believe what he allegedly did 32 years ago merits punishment today, perhaps the prosecutor should have had the police interrogate the man for hours on end until the man made enough inaccurate statements he could be tried for obstruction of justice. You claim the Cardinals won the World Series in 1983? Ha! Baltimore won in '83. The Cards won in '82!

(For those missing it, this is an allusion to a question posted a few weeks ago on the Conspiracy.)
7.13.2007 11:51pm
Fub:
Carolina wrote at 7.13.2007 9:17pm:
The whole thing smacks of political grandstanding by the prosecution, who admit they were "familiar with" the ruling in question, but didn't "consider" it until after the guy was indicted.
I'm shocked, utterly shocked, that observers would interpret the Honorable[1] Attorney General's actions so cynically[2].

He deliberated[3] thoroughly upon the evidence and the law before deciding not to take the accused to trial[4].


Bierce notes:

[1] HONORABLE, adj. Afflicted with an impediment in one's reach. In legislative bodies it is customary to mention all members as honorable; as, "the honorable gentleman is a scurvy cur."

[2] CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.

[3] DELIBERATION, n. The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on.

[4] TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. ...
7.14.2007 12:01am
scote (mail):

Well, accepting as fact that the prosecutors believe what he allegedly did 32 years ago merits punishment today, perhaps the prosecutor should have had the police interrogate the man for hours on end until the man made enough inaccurate statements he could be tried for obstruction of justice. You claim the Cardinals won the World Series in 1983? Ha! Baltimore won in '83. The Cards won in '82!

(For those missing it, this is an allusion to a question posted a few weeks ago on the Conspiracy.)

Well, if it was an investigation in which the suspect had leaked the pre-rigged 1983 World Series winner's identity...

You do realize that for a perjury charge to stick the lie has to be about a material fact.

Satire is only funny if it is rooted in truth...
7.14.2007 1:27am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
I am making no judgment on this one. The memories here were "corroborated by independent evidence." This case was apparently based on something more than memories alone. If the prosecutors are telling the truth, they had probable cause. They got a grand jury to go along with an indictment. Despite the claim that a grand jury would "indict a ham sandwich," in reality, most people do take their duties serving on a grand jury seriously.

Assuming that the standard for probable cause was met (as the prosecutor claims) the decision to bring the case was a matter of judgment. The question is whether the admissability bar in Quattrocchi could be overcome. Perhaps whoever originally brought the prosecution thought they had a decent chance of distinguishing this case or arguing for an exception. But after further discussion with their colleagues they decided that the probabilities of them distinguishing the case or convincing the court to carve out an exception were too slim.

My sense is that the people criticizing the prosecution here in the comments are simply extra suspicious of rape prosecutions in general. I was suprised to find in discussions in law school that so many conservatives love to make excuses for rapists. I guess if you are against rape nowadays, that makes you a feminazi.
7.14.2007 1:42am
A Northwestern Law Student (mail):
@Scote: See here. You're wrong about whether that was funny.
7.14.2007 1:54am
scote (mail):

@Scote: See here. You're wrong about whether that was funny.

Ok, I stand corrected. Mod as Funny.
7.14.2007 2:01am
whit:
"My sense is that the people criticizing the prosecution here in the comments are simply extra suspicious of rape prosecutions in general. I was suprised to find in discussions in law school that so many conservatives love to make excuses for rapists."

first of all, it is not merely conservatives who are extra suspicious of rape prosecutions. beyond that, even alan dershowitz, a defense lawyer who is (despite his "unconscionable support for israel" etc.) clearly NOT a conservative, readily admits that rape is among the crimes wherein "victims" are most likely to falsely bring charges against another.

any seasoned investigator (myself included) with a brain is dubious of a lot of alleged rape cases, because we KNOW how much of them a la duke case are simply completely bogus.

there are a # of reasons why rape is among the most underreported (in terms of part I crimes - iow, that they happen and are not reported by the victims) AND overreported (false reports).

one problem with prosecutors (and defense attorneys ) is the whole "if you are a hammer, then everything looks like a nail" issue.

frankly, i've been called to testify in cases where i was dubious at best that the guy was guilty, but the prosecutor was simply convinced.

also, being skeptical that an ALLEGED rapist actually DID the crime is *not* the same thing as making excuses for rapists. heck, i could probably go for the death penalty in many rape cases. but i find FALSE claims of rape to be nearly as awful as committing a rape itself, especially because the defendant gets his name dragged through the mud. about the only thing worse than being accused of rape (falsely) is being accused of child molestation.

in many jurisdictions, probable cause statements are posted online. i would love to read this one before i decided on the merits of the case, if any.

as for grand juries, i have testified before some really good ones (ask a lot of questions, generally interested, etc.) and some pretty mediocre ones.

here in WA i've never even seen a grand jury. they just aren't used where i am. the constitution says

"SECTION 26 GRAND JURY.
No grand jury shall be drawn or summoned in any county, except the superior judge thereof shall so order. "

at least to my knowledge, it doesn't happen very often, if ever around here.
7.14.2007 2:40am
whit:
"I defended a rape trial about 2 years ago and we presented an audio tape of the "rape victim" yapping on the phone about how she lied about the charges. The jury heard it and my client was acquitted"

so, of course the prosecutor charged the "victim" with making a false complaint, perjury, whatnot? of course... NOT

that would be politically incorrect. i'm still waiting to see if that happens in the duke case.

they might use some excuse like she is mentally ill. well, if she was so mentally ill, maybe they could have determined that BEFORE they dragged innocents students name through the mud for months on end
7.14.2007 2:43am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I dunno about the independent evidence, but when the witness claims to have forgotten about a violent assault for 32 years, it would have to be staggering indeed. Seems to me that something that couldn't be remembered for the last 31 years ... maybe didn't happen.

There are lots of things I don't remember over the last 31 years, like my alien abduction, and my election as governor in 1996, because, well, they never happened. Other than that, there is no reason to doubt them.

At least it relieves the justice system (which is little of a system, and has less to do with justice) of dealing with the anomaly of prosecuting a 48 year old man in juvenile court (48-32).
7.14.2007 5:01am
Fub:
Mr. Impressive wrote at 7.14.2007 12:42am:
I am making no judgment on this one. The memories here were "corroborated by independent evidence." This case was apparently based on something more than memories alone. If the prosecutors are telling the truth, they had probable cause. They got a grand jury to go along with an indictment. Despite the claim that a grand jury would "indict a ham sandwich," in reality, most people do take their duties serving on a grand jury seriously.
We may find out just what the GJ heard in due course and the fullness of time. According to TFA:
[Allen's lawyer, Walter R. Stone] was notified of the dismissal by the media yesterday, but said he would still go ahead with a motion to compel prosecutors to hand over the evidence that was presented to the grand jury. He said he has been trying to see the evidence since Allen was arraigned.

"We're going to be in court tomorrow," he said last night. "I think we're entitled to see what was presented to the grand jury."
Frankly, it looks like the AG is playing hide the ball. I don't know RI procedure (and whit has said previously that RI is weird), but in my experience the defense got everything the prosecutor had as of arraignment, at arraignment.

Not notifing defense of the dismissal before calling a press conference sounds hinky too. I've known some jerk ADAs who'd pull a stunt like that if they could, but Lynch is the state AG.
7.14.2007 5:54am
Sean Sorrentino (mail):
Sounds to me like the prosecutor achieved what he was aiming for. The accused gets his name blackened, the prosecutor gets his name out as an "advocate for women," and he doesn't even have to go to trial. the only thing left to do in this case is to sue the guy in civil court and bankrupt him.

sickening.
7.14.2007 10:21am
Daedalus (mail):
How nice, the charges are dropped....where does this man go to get his good name back. Will the prosecutor apologize, or is the indictment just dropped and the cloud still hangs on him......
7.14.2007 10:34am
Bpbatista (mail):
So what if they couldn't get repressed memory testimony admitted. Didn't they have the standard backup of a soothsayer reading the entrails of a virgin goat? These prosecutors really dropped the ball.
7.14.2007 11:43am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Didn't they have the standard backup of a soothsayer reading the entrails of a virgin goat? These prosecutors really dropped the ball.

Smith v. Golann requires laying foundation by proving the goat really is a virgin, which requires proof that it has been under observation since birth. The state Prosecutors Assn raised hell over that ruling, saying that it reflected judicial activism at its worst.
7.14.2007 3:02pm
SJE:
Mr Impressive says "I am making no judgment on this one...."

1. Whether you are making no judgement or not, society will judge the man charged in this case. He has a stain on his reputation that he can not remove.

"This case was apparently based on something more than memories alone. If the prosecutors are telling the truth, they had probable cause."

2. Apparently so. But I am not willing to give the DA the benefit of the doubt giving the facts that ARE out there, and with strong evidence that prosecutorial misconduct is not some rare abberation, but actually occurs with some frequency. see e.g. Radley Balko's writings on reason.com and theagitator.com.

"But after further discussion with their colleagues they decided that the probabilities of them distinguishing the case or convincing the court to carve out an exception were too slim."

3. Yes, as was appropriate. My criticism of their handling of this case is not that they dismissed it, but the way that they dismissed it, with nary an apology to the accused. We now have a supposed victim who will never get justice in court, and an alleged perpetrator who will is forever smeared. No one wins except the prosecutors.

"My sense is that the people criticizing the prosecution here in the comments are simply extra suspicious of rape prosecutions in general. I was suprised to find in discussions in law school that so many conservatives love to make excuses for rapists. I guess if you are against rape nowadays, that makes you a feminazi."

4. I would presume that most readers, like me, are strongly against rape, as they are against murder, battery etc. The issue here is not whether we are againts rape, but what we regard as due process and fairness. An accused should be tried and, if guilty, punished. Here, we have a man being punished without trial.
7.14.2007 3:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mr. Impressive is not.

I looked at some of the more notable feminist blogs during the Duke issue. It was more common than not, in fact almost inevitable, that if someone brought up a fact-say that one of the guys was elsewhere--he was a "rape apologist".
That's Mr. Impressive's not very impressive tactic. It is vile, stupid, and transparent.
7.14.2007 5:39pm
hey (mail):
Mr Impressive: I believe that the dealth penalty is far too restricted, and that most rapists should be sentenced to death, as should all child molesters (actual ones, not genarlow wislon types). I`m an evil Likudnik war-monger who is very law and order and would hav no probelm stringing up a rapist myself. HOWEVER they need to be GUILTY.

Repressed memories - good indication that the accused is being railroaded. DNA from 5 men, none of whom are the accused - the accused is being railroaded. Both parties were substantially intoxicated and one now regrets the incident the accused is being railroaded. Not taking no for an answer - string him up by his balls.

I do love your straw man though. Conservatives are SO well known for being easy on offenders. You may have us confused for Islamists like your friends in Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban who`ll kill a woman for walking outside uncovered. But then you complain about homophobia and support Shariah head-choppers.
7.14.2007 5:48pm
Peter Young:
The lesson of this case--and so many others--is that invocation of the criminal system by prosecutors itself constitutes punishment. It takes a huge toll on the finances, the emotional health and the reputation of the accused, whatever the end result.

That is why prosecutors must be held to high standards in their discretionary decisions as to whether to bring charges and, indeed, as to what to say publicly about cases they are looking into. They have the relatively unchecked power to ruin people's lives whether or not the criminal process is carried through to its conclusion.

This power is unchecked because legal redress is simply not available as a result of doctrines like prosecutorial immunity. Self-restraint is rarely a reliable checking device; many prosecutors are gung-ho types, not given to reflection and introspection.

There does seem to be an increase in disciplinary actions against prosecutors. There's the Nifong case. And California recently disciplined a prosecutor who suppressed exculpatory evidence and made false representations to the court. There should be more of that sort of thing to remind prosecutors that they are not the law and that they are not above the law.

Bringing charges in this case seems to me to have been in bad faith if it was done without checking whether the case was viable under a well-known legal precedent that plainly applied.
7.14.2007 7:00pm
Hattio (mail):
Fub,
You get evidence at arraignment? Hell, here we usually show up at Omnibus hearing (you know where we're supposed to confirm we have all the evidence, and discuss any motions we're going to bring on the evidence) and tell the judge we don't even have a police report yet.
7.14.2007 8:07pm
whit:
"I looked at some of the more notable feminist blogs during the Duke issue. It was more common than not, in fact almost inevitable, that if someone brought up a fact-say that one of the guys was elsewhere--he was a "rape apologist". "

i was posting and reading feministing.com when the duke case came to light and i have never seen a more blatant case of cognitive dissonance in my life, and i've seen some amazing cognitive dissonance in my life.

the case smelled of complete bull#$(#$(# from the get go, and only got worse. there was simply no reasoning with the ideologues there. attacks on the duke "rapists" were also completely racist, classist, etc. iow, not only were they obviously guilty, but they also were especially guilty because they were (presumably in the feministing eyes) white, rich, drunkfratboy(tm), jocks, all of which are bad thing and clearly "oppressor caste" markers.

the drunk stripper, otoh, could not possibly be lying (women don't ever lie about rape) and was a noble victim (feminists LOVE victims), just trying to get by in the white male patriarchal capitalist heterosexist hegemony.

even after the guys were 100% exonerated, the defensiveness and the attacks on the duke "boys" remained. hey, even if they didn't for sure commit a horrible rape, "something" happened, and plus they were drunk rich jock racist fratboys who hired a stripper (apparently, being a stripper is noble, but hiring one is terrible) who should still be prosecuted for underage drinking and alleged racial insults.

imo, the true NOBLE actions in this case were by the duke women's LAX team who stood by their fellow LAX players, despite the immense pressure (girl power girl power) to jump on the bandwagon. they were vilified as traitors to womankind, the cause, etc.

and after the fact, somebody suggested an apology, and the head cheerleader of the call to lynch the women's LAX players was unrepentant. facts mean nothing to these people.

all men are rapists, or potential rapists, and women never lie about rape. it's that simple. when the victim is black and a struggling working mother, and the accused are white "privileged" jocks it's doubleplus good.
7.14.2007 10:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Whit. Agree, but I think you left out "misogynist".

I can understand, to some extent, why some feminists are this nutty.

Why a guy--presuming Mr. Impressive is a guy--would go along is another question. Maybe it's the last resort to get a date with a last resort.
7.14.2007 11:14pm
Fub:
Hattio wrote at 7.14.2007 7:07pm:
You get evidence at arraignment?
Got. I'm retired. Where I practiced the norm was that the DA brought the clerk at arraignment a pile of "discovery packets". These usually consisted of existing police reports and, sometimes some documentary evidence such as lab reports.
Hell, here we usually show up at Omnibus hearing (you know where we're supposed to confirm we have all the evidence, and discuss any motions we're going to bring on the evidence) and tell the judge we don't even have a police report yet.
I overstated "everything". Obviously many things won't fit in a file envelope. But it was better than bupkis.

I don't understand how withholding lab reports (as Nifong) or GJ testimony (as here) can be anything but misconduct with enhancement for arrogant stupidity. It's not as if nobody knew the evidence existed.
7.15.2007 9:31pm