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Hutchison: Readers Question Why Laws Don't Protect Victims

Publication Date: 
June 04, 2007
Source: 
San Jose Mercury News
Author: 
Sue Hutchison

San Jose Mercury News columnist Sue Hutchison addresses reader responses to her earlier column "De Anza Rape Case Sends Bleak Message" and quotes Stanford criminal law expert Robert Weisberg. Hutchison writes:

There was passionate reader response to my recent column about the decision not to file charges against men who were suspected of raping a teenage girl at a March house party attended by De Anza College baseball players, a party that began with drinking games and ended with the girl being found semiconscious and half-naked on a bed.

Given the lack of evidence, including Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr's disclosure that the girl could not remember anything that happened soon after she arrived at the party, it would have been difficult if not impossible to prove the case in court. As I said in the column, this case is a prime example of the limits of the law and why acquaintance-rape cases so often never go to trial.

Many readers questioned why statutory rape charges could not be filed since the girl in the De Anza case was only 17. But, as Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg explained, these charges also can be very difficult to prove in a case where excessive drinking muddles not only memories and the issue of consent but also whether the men knew the girl's age or had reason to know.