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Homecoming rape: When do bystanders become accomplices?

Publication Date: 
October 29, 2009
The Christian Science Monitor
Michael B. Farrell

Kara Dansky talked to Christian Science Monitor reporter Michael Farrell about "accomplice liability" in the Richmond, California rape case which went unreported by bystanders:

The case of a 15-year-old girl who was raped outside her high school homecoming dance last weekend is likely to raise legal questions about who was merely a witness and who was an accomplice.

Four teenagers were arraigned in Richmond, Calif., Thursday. Three of the suspects are juveniles, and one is a 19-year-old man. All have been charged as adults. A 21-year-old man has also been arrested but not officially charged in the rape.


Accomplice liability is applicable to someone who aides and abets a crime, says Kara Dansky, executive director at the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. If a bystander verbally encouraged a crime, they can face the same level of punishment as those who actually carry it out, she says.


But Professor Dansky suspects the question of accomplice liability will become a key issue in the prosecution's case.

Answering the question of what amounts to aiding and abetting, however, will require "intensive fact investigation on the part of the police and difficult line-drawing on the part of the prosecutors," she notes on her blog.