Monday, May 31, 2004

I found a new blog that I feel is worth reading. It appears to have a right wing bent (at least, their links are mostly right wing links, and I got them from a right wing site, but I haven't seen any overtly right wing screeds in their like some of my left wing screeds). Politics aside, they have good information on different legal happenings down here in Southern California, and they are worth a look. The blog is called SoCalLawBlog, and they're a good resource.

One of the cases that they've talked about is the Haidl rape trial. For those of you who don't know about the Haidl case, go to their list of coverage, or read on for a very short synopsis. The details are not of as great an interest to me as some of the things that have gone on legally.

Essentially, 3 upscale suburban boys (they were all under 18 when this happened), including the son of one of the top people in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, videotaped themselves having sex with a girl (also under 18) who appeared to be asleep or unconscious. They had sex with her, and they also put objects into her body such as pool cues and things of the like. I don't intend to tittilate, so I'm not going into too many details. Read the articles for more information if you like.

The case is in trial right now, and the defense lawyers have been hammering away at the credibility of the girl, claiming that she had given consent for the boys to do this, that she faked unconsciousness, that she had had sex with them on numerous previous occasions, and that this type of activity was typical for them. Fair enough.

But, I have to say, I think that at times, the lawyers have gone too far.

Remember, we are advocates for our clients, but not necessarily for their actions, or against their accusers. There is a fine line that we have to walk in advocating for our clients, and I wince when I hear people go beyond the line. What is the line? Not totally clear, but I heard some of the press conference by the defense lawyer who has been all over the papers, and what I heard made me upset. He called the girl a manipulative little liar (perhaps fair enough, remember, you can comment on the evidence without becoming a party to this whole thing), and said that it was clear she had poor morals. There were comments about her sexual activity, and how that reflected poorly on her.

Let's be clear, this case is not about sex, it is about forcing yourself on an unwilling participant. To the extent that sex is what you are forcing, clearly the prior sexual relations between the victim and defendants are relevant. Perhaps even her prior sexual relations between her and others are relevant as well (although not legally relevant, thanks to the rape shield laws, more on that stuff in another post). But to call into question her morals? This lawyer is representing people who video'd themselves having sex with someone who, at the very least, pretended to be uncounscious. They put objects into her body, they had group sex with her, they are in no position to preach morality. Their lawyer should know better and not do that either.

What he did, in effect, was to take a position in contradiction to his client's position. His client could never get up and scream "she's an immoral liar!" Not because it's illegal, or impossible, but because he would be rightfully villified for doing so. I don't believe a lawyer should become a mouthpiece for someone to say what that person would never have the guts to say. This is what happens in politics, where politicians don't want to be seen as negative, so they have their attack dogs go out and make the negative, venal comments, while they remain "above the fray." The day that lawyers, in zealously representing their clients, go about doing the same thing is the day we cease to be a representative of the party, but a party to the action as well.

Go ahead and say she's lying, point out her inconsistencies, show bad things she may have done, but don't become a sermonizer on the virtues of the people you are in litigation against.

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