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article imageOp-Ed: What is a credible witness? Ask Edgar Steele

By Alexander Baron     Aug 28, 2011 in Crime
Boise - The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was dismissed because his accuser was considered “not credible” as a witness, but many people have been brought to trial and even convicted on far less credible evidence.
When prosecutors revealed why they had decided to terminate the prosecution of Dominique Strauss-Kahn it became clear that his accuser Nafissatou Diallo was not quite the little angel the world had been led to believe when the story broke on May 14. That was not their fault anymore than it was the media’s. All we knew was that she was a chambermaid, an immigrant, a Moslem or from an Islamic background, and a single mother. Since then it has been revealed that like many fishermen she can spin a good yarn, and that she lied repeatedly to government lawyers about matters that were not directly related to the ordeal she claimed to have experienced, but which would certainly have undermined her credibility at trial. She also gave inconsistent accounts of what she did after their encounter.
If the case had not been so halted, this latter would have been exploited by any half-competent defense attorney, but it is in fact far more understandable than any of the proven lies she told. Women who have been raped or otherwise assaulted, or people – men and women – who experience or witness sudden trauma, often behave in strange or even bizarre ways, and sometimes their recollections of even very recent events are far from perfect. It is well known that if six people witness a road accident and the police are summoned at once, within twenty minutes they will have half a dozen different versions of what actually happened. In English courtrooms, when identification is based on a fleeting encounter, the judge will give the jury a Turnbull direction (based on a Court of Appeal judgment). Identification was not an issue in this case, but from the fact that there was physical evidence of a sexual encounter, it is clear the only issue was consent.
If this had been a “date rape” scenario – he said, she said – or in Strauss-Kahn’s case she said, he didn’t say, then clearly the case should have gone to trial when the accused might have been found formally not guilty. The termination of this prosecution begs the question, how much corroborative evidence would the New York DA have considered sufficient to take the case to trial: a torn dress, ripped underwear, severe vaginal bruising and maybe a broken arm for good measure?
If the evidence of Nafissatou Diallo was considered too unreliable for the State to proceed, in spite of a Grand Jury indictment, there are two cases – one in Britain and one in the US – which using the same criteria should never have come to trial. Actually, there are probably a great many more, but we can allude first to Michael Stone, who at his retrial was convicted of a heinous double murder on the strength of a confession he was alleged to have shouted through a prison wall to a drug addict who was so far out of it that shortly he tried to phone his dead mother. Details of Stone's case and an interview with one of his supporters can be found here.
A much more recent case, and one in which the accused though convicted has not yet been sentenced, is that of Idaho attorney Edgar J. Steele. Anyone who makes the most cursory examination of the facts of this bizarre murder plot from the motive to the hit man Steele is alleged to have hired to sabotage his wife’s car can conclude only that it stinks to High Heaven. When one adds to that the slap on the wrist Larry Fairfax received, and the exclusion of defense expert testimony about the incriminating tapes, one can only stare in open-mouthed amazement at the gall of the Federal Government. Anyone who believes the Feds wouldn’t go to such extreme lengths to frame someone like Steele - the attorney for the damned – should consider their entrapment and treatment of Randy Weaver – whose son and daughter they murdered in a shoot out; John DeLorean – who was by and large not a political animal; and some of the other cases of entrapment and incitement by legal authorities that have come to light in recent years on both sides of the Atlantic.
Steele is now angling for a new trial; it remains to be seen if he will get it; he does though appear to have made one, probably two, big mistakes. One is that he did not take the stand; an innocent man should never have any fear about taking the stand unless like Dr Bodkin Adams or Dr Leonard Arthur he has a very good reason for not doing so. The other is that he appears to have had an attorney who was – to put it politely – less than competent, which begs the question, why did he not conduct his own defense?
As things stand, Steele will not be back in court until November, when he is due to receive what will in effect be a life sentence. One person who doubted his innocence only for one fleeting moment is his wife, Cyndi, who having examined the evidence that was presented to her concluded that her husband had indeed been framed rather than simply entrapped. Unfortunately for Steele, it is extremely doubtful if the Idaho Court of Appeals will concur.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about nafissatou diallo, Larry Fairfax, Edgar Steele, Dominique strauss kahn, Attempted Murder
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