Is American justice too open? That question may amaze or even offend some people, but it is one that should be asked in view of one ongoing
and another forthcoming
trial, for while justice must be not only done but seen to be done, the intense scrutiny and more often analysis over-laden with comment that accompanies it can make it difficult for an accused to receive a fair trial, especially when the prosecution case appears to be overwhelming.
In the 1962 book Black Boomerang
, the second volume of his autobiography, the former anti-Nazi propagandist Sefton Delmer complained that there were no libel or contempt laws in the Third Reich, something that had pre-dated the rise of Hitler. While this may imply that the press in Nazi Germany was more free than in Britain, Delmer was obviously drawing the often none too fine distinction between freedom and licence. That distinction is certainly not a fine one in either of the two cases alluded to above, those of Casey Anthony and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Anthony’s trial, for the capital murder of her two year old daughter, is well underway, and as from the very beginning, is not looking good for “Tot Mom”; any sort of acquittal is looking not so much unlikely as remote, and the question to be decided may be not guilty or not guilty but should she be sentenced to death or life imprisonment?
It has to be said, this is largely her own fault; even a judge noted that Miss Anthony and the truth are strangers. This is a woman who reports her two year old daughter missing under pressure from her mother thirty-one days after she was allegedly kidnapped by a nanny she couldn’t pay for and later admits did not exist, and who leads the police to a film studio, bluffing her way in before admitting she didn’t actually work there. Then, through her lawyer, as the trial opens, she shifts the blame onto her father whom she claims sexually abused her from a young age, a claim that is belied by the intimate videos the jury has seen showing a caring family and concerned if gullible parents.
At this stage, the jury is being shielded from all commentary concerning Anthony’s presumed guilt, but there were concerns from an early stage that it would be impossible for her to receive a fair trial, and indeed those concerns were reflected in a difficult jury selection process.
It was the double murder trial of O.J. Simpson
back in 1995 that can be said really to have started America down this slippery slope; there are no “Dancing Itos” or similar nonsense here, but the damage has already been done.
If Casey Anthony is rightly despised by the women of America for her shockingly callous lack of concern for her daughter, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is despised by women of a certain political persuasion for entirely different reasons. For one thing, he is extremely rich, a “socialist” who books into a hotel whose current premium rates are a shade under £600 sterling per night.
Strauss-Kahn is not a young man, is married, and would certainly be considered sexually unattractive by most women thirty years his junior. The background to his arrest and arraignment is a matter of record. Soon after his arrest, a woman in France claimed that he had attacked her in 2002, apparently with intent to rape.
In Britain, the identity of a woman who is alleged to have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted will generally not be disclosed unless she waives her right to anonymity or unless it is unavoidable.
Because of the prominence of the accused in this case, there have been a lot of so-called conspiracy theories floating around in cyberspace; in reality most of this is scurrilous gossip. Although much of this gossip claims Strauss-Kahn has been framed for political purposes, a fair amount of it paints him as a sexual predator with a long track record of abusing women who has on this occasion overstepped the mark.
The alleged victim in this case is now being represented by a lawyer. It remains to be seen why or how a chambermaid can find the wherewithal to hire a lawyer, certainly this lawyer
, but it is more likely that he found her rather than she found him. This lawyer has now appealed on French television for any other victims of Dominique Strauss-Kahn to contact him. Is this dumb, or what?
The police often make such appeals in rape, murder and other cases, usually before a suspect has been arrested or after an accused has been convicted. For example, after the murder of Amélie Delagrange in August 2004, a woman reported being attacked
on November 5, 2002.
The problem with this sort of appeal though is that it is likely to be answered big time. What does he do if four hundred women come forward and claim they were raped by him? If this scenario sounds unlikely, the reader should check out some of the ludicrous material that can be found about the current and former Presidents of the United States on-line. Is Barack Obama really a coke snorting closet homosexual? Did George W. Bush really order 9/11? Did Bill Clinton order the Oklahoma bombing, and is he a serial rapist as some have claimed?
This last is very relevant, because although “feminazis” never tire of telling us both that rape is a vastly under-reported crime and that the conviction rate is far too low, it is demonstrable that a certain type of woman is attracted to powerful men; this is clearly what happened in the Clinton/Lewinsky case and the sordid tale of the semen stained dress. Whatever happens now, Strauss-Kahn is a marked man and will be for the rest of his life. Rightly convicted rapist Mike Tyson has been on the wrong end of at least one blatantly false allegation
. This lawyer’s appeal is also an open invitation to gold-diggers, publicity seekers and mentally disturbed individuals to enter the fray.
Some commentators on the Strauss-Kahn affair have dragged in former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger who is also in the news, his wife having left him because he had fathered a child
by another woman – as most wives would. Allegations have also been raised against the former Governor, movie actor and bodybuilder that he was a serial groper. To mention Schwarzenegger’s admittedly caddish behaviour in the same breath as an allegation of attempted rape shows that not only rapists have difficulty in distinguishing between consensual sex and rape. Furthermore, Mr Schwarzenegger has never been formally accused of any act of sexual assault, so to sully his name with this sort of innuendo is both cheap and despicable.
It now seems likely that Dominique Strauss-Kahn will indeed face trial, and though it will generate massive public interest and reporting, it will be a very sordid affair. If the lawyer acting for the alleged victim has been unwise, the accused’s lawyers are more than matching him, if media reports are to be believed. They are said to have leaked the suggestion that they will be claiming there was sexual contact between the two, but that it was consensual. The overweight, retirement age transient on his way to the airport, and the thirty-two year old widowed Moslem chambermaid had consensual sex in his hotel room? Good luck with running that one.
So what should happen in high profile cases of this nature? In Britain, none of this would be possible because of the Contempt Of Court Act, 1981
. Outrageous reporting will land a newspaper or TV company in court
, and may result in fines or even gaol sentences
. Freedom of the press and other media does not and should not mean freedom to prejudice the outcome of ongoing or potential legal proceedings, which in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the chambermaid may result in either the acquittal of a guilty sex attacker or the gaoling of an innocent man.