The “Justice” System

BY ALEX ALSTON

A Manhattan judge recently dismissed the case against former director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Khan, due to the District Attorney’s decision to drop the charges of sexual assault against him. The prosecution essentially stated that Nafissatou Diallo’s inconsistencies in her recollection of events damaged her credibility to the point where her account could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes, folks, the prosecution decided that it, and not a jury, would decide the fate of this case.  Not to be outdone, the media certainly did its share to discredit Diallo, drudging up federal forms she filled out in the past and even introducing the option of deportation as a result of perjury on these documents.

In a classic case of the justice system treating the victim of sexual violence as a criminal, we are yet again faced with the harsh reality that system’s glaring, inherent flaws.  Now I am not presuming that is DSK guilty, not at all.  I am saying, however, that the structure of our justice system was leaning heavily toward his innocence before he ever stepped foot inside of that hotel.  I’m saying that “the law” is not colorblind.  In fact, it is just as sensitive to race, to gender, to class, as those who make it, enforce it, and interpret it, and until we part with the myth that there is such a thing as “equal protection under the law,” this will always be a problem.  Diallo, then, was not failed by the justice system, she is collateral damage for the sexism, racism, classism, and religious discrimination that it is steeped in.  If the outrage and sense of betrayal this decision produced can be used as a catalyst for reform there, then it is not in vain.  But if we have only gathered to cry out for Strauss-Khan’s head, then we will be back, and soon.

Hi, my name is Alex and I’m a college student who interned at Hollaback! this past summer.  I am, of course, elated to be a part of the blogging team and hope some of you can hear echoes of your own voices in my writing.  I’m new at this so any comments or suggestions would be more than welcome!

 

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6 Responses

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  1. WOW Items says:

    as “equal protection under the law,” this will always be a problem. Diallo, then, was not failed by the justice system, she is collateral damage for the sexism, racism, classism, and religious discrimination that it is steeped in. If the outrage and sense of betrayal this decision produced can be used as a catalyst for reform there, then it is not in vain. But if we have only gathered to cry out for Strauss-Khan’s head

  2. luke neave says:

    You said “Now I am not presuming that [DSK is] guilty, not at all.”

    You then go on to say “In a classic case of the justice system treating the victim of sexual violence as a criminal”

    If she is a “victim” of sexual violence, and since there is not a question of mistaken identity, then you are of course presuming him guilty.

    Yes, folks, the prosecution decided that it, and not a jury, would decide the fate of this case.

    Yes as it does in many other cases.

    “The prosecutors’ swift action on the case may also hint at their belief in their evidence. They obtained an indictment within a week of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, even though they could have taken longer because he was granted bail.”

    Does that smack of a justice system steeped in sexism, racism, classism, and religious discrimination. Why didn’t they show disbelief in her allegation from the beginning if you are correct?

    Prosecutors from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who initially were emphatic about the strength of the case and the account of the victim, plan to tell the judge on Friday that they “have problems with the case” based on what their investigators have discovered, and will disclose more of their findings to the defense. The woman still maintains that she was attacked, the officials said.

    I suspect that if he had been tried and released you would have made the same charge anyway.

  3. Alex says:

    I think you are missing the point friend. And that is, that black womanhood is not even incredible enough to go to trial. And yes you are right, if he had been tried and released my argument would not change, and neither would the realities that let him off. You seem to argue that because they believed her initially everything is alright. I see real problems with that logic, isn’t it the job of the prosecution to prosecute, to serve those who have allegedly been attacked/harmed?

  4. james says:

    Yeah, this is not at all a failing of the justice system. Prosecutors won’t try a case they think will lose. That’s the way it works. They have to choose which cases to take to trial. That’s the system working, not failing.

    They were initially empathetic to her. Then it turned out she did a bunch of lying. This is a he said/she said situation. Your willingness to presume guilt (doing the exact same thing you’re accusing the prosecution of doing, only in reverse) is scary. Under no circumstances are you willing to admit she might be lying. That’s bias, and that’s bad for all the reasons you know it’s bad.

  5. Alex says:

    Again, why is it that this woman could not be believed enough for her case to go to trial? Do you think if she had accused a working class Hispanic man from South Bronx that her history would have mattered? Because I don’t. I’m not interested in who’s telling the truth, the jury should decide that. But they did not get a chance to. Don’t Americans have a right to a trial by a jury of their peers (something like that), what happened to this woman’s right? And you can stop with the she was lying story, plenty of liars take people to trial everyday in this country. The justice system is not only supposed to work for perfect victims or people who have told the truth in every instance of their lives. Its supposed to work for everyone, and it does not.

  6. james says:

    “Again, why is it that this woman could not be believed enough for her case to go to trial?”

    Because she had lied before. Rape cases are very hard to prove because they are often he said/she said. If the “she” here has been proven to have lied in the past, then the defense only needs to demonstrate that there is the possibility that she’s lying in this case (i.e., that what the “he” is saying is true) for the jury to have to (as in, they are obligated by the law) to find for the defense.

    That’s what “reasonable doubt” is all about. The jury has to find for the defense if there’s a reasonable doubt regarding the defense’s guilt. It’s part of what makes the system fair, because it makes it so that the government can’t put people in prison unless there is 100% certainty of their guilt. Anything beyond a reasonable doubt, i.e., anything that would make a reasonable person think the defendant might be innocent, and the government can’t put the defendant in jail.

    With civil trials, the burden of proof is different. In civil trials, all a jury needs to find guilty is a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that in contrast to the all-or-nothing, 100% certainty situation in criminal cases, a jury only needs to believe that there is more evidence for guilt than against to find the defendant guilty.

    That’s why so many defendants win criminal trials and lose civil trials.

    Anyway, that “reasonable doubt” is what the prosecutors have to consider when deciding whether to bring a case or not. They can’t take every single case that comes before them to trial, because that would bring the justice system to a complete standstill (which would be unconstitutional, aside from just being stupid).

    Like it or not, that’s the way the system works. And that’s also how life works. If you lie, especially on federal forms (which is a felony), you can’t expect life to be roses and moonbeams. Bad decisions have bad consequences, and if you lie, don’t expect people to believe you in the future. That’s just common sense. I don’t know how anyone can argue against that.

    The good news for Diallo is that she can sue DSK (or his American interests) in civil court and get monetary compensation. (Which is apparently what she expected, anyway.)

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