27 December 2008

A Little Perspective on Rape, the Law, and the Way We All React to Things

by NOAH KUTTLER

"So this is how it is. The innocent suffer, the guilty go free, and truth and fiction are pretty much interchangeable. ...There is neither a Santa Claus, nor an Easter Bunny, and there no angels watching over us. Things just happen for no reason, and nothing makes any sense." Veronica Mars

As a first year law student I tend to be a bit long winded, they are still teaching me to get to the point. Please read on though, as I would like to present some thoughts for your consideration.

In Wassell v. Adams (Susan WASSELL, Plaintiff-Appellant,v. Wilbur L. ADAMS and Florena M. Adams, doing business as Ron-Ric Motel, Defendants-Appellees.) a woman brought a suit in negligence against a hotel where she was raped. Here the woman could not sue her attacker or bring charges against him because he was unknown to her and not apprehended, at least not by the time this case was tried. Wassel claimed that the hotel had no phone for her, no security for her room or the rest of the hotel, and had failed to warn her of crime in the area that she was visiting. The hotel clearly had knowledge of the criminal element in the area, and had taken some measures to protect its property, specifically theft resistant TV sets. Wassell claimed that the hotels knowledge of crime and response to that knowledge was negligent, the hotel had formulated and executed a response that did nothing to protect or warn its guests! When Wassell was attacked in her room and raped she had no means of summoning help, she had to resort to her own trickery to escape the rapist at much great peril to herself. The reporter sighting for this case is Wassell v. Adams, 865 F.2d 849 (7th Cir.(Ill.) Jan 05, 1989) (NO. 88-1118) for those of you who have a mind to read the facts yourself and develop your own thoughts.

The relevance of this case to Mason’s situation as I see it is that a jury found Wassell 97% responsible for her own rape. When I learned this case I thought it was preposterous, how can anyone be responsible for their own rape? Did she shout “NO” while manually guiding the shaft inside of her? Did she assume some type of vertical splits stance, in the nude, and then knock her attacker off balance so that his penis fell in? Apparently the answer in this case was that compared to the hotel she was 97% responsible for the rape, not compared to her attacker. For me this was unacceptable, and I thought it might be something for the people out in internet land to ponder when they tell Mason he ought to press charges. A court of law can be a very unsympathetic place. In that case no one questioned that Wassell was raped, Wassel was not in any way acquainted with her attacker, and Wassell was not a porn star. Still, Wassell was found in a court of law, before a jury of her peers, to be 97% responsible for her rape. How certain can anyone be that if Mason went to court he would be able to protect anyone from a future attack? Mason has very reasonably pointed out that adults should be responsible for their own actions, and I am trying to point out that the court very frequently says the same thing Mason has said. Going to court is not a choice to be made lightly; it requires a well thought out decision and consultation with a legal expert.

To that end, I should also point out that this was a case before an Illinois court in 1989 and probably not at all indicative of the law in Texas. I am not suggesting that action in court is inherently a bad idea in this case. I just think that writers out there suggesting that Mason’s choice not to press charges indicates some sort of deceit on his part are not as familiar with the law as they would like everyone to believe. The choice to go to court should be made by a legal professional who has a chance to examine the relevant law and the evidence available. The choice not to go to court can reflect case law like Wassell v. Adams, a case reflecting a jury who would not likely have come to a decision that would have vindicated Mason or protected any future victims. Despite the interaction of intelligent and skilled professionals in the legal arena and a jury of one’s peers, the court is at the end of the day a forum for no more than legal transactions and cannot be relied upon for proclamations of truth.

Mason’s choice regarding legal inaction should be viewed as a personal reflection on the inadequacy of the court system and cannot reasonably be used to infer that he is lying about his attack. Anyone who knew the first thing about the law could tell you that much, and thus we must assume that those attacking Mason’s choice are misinformed or na├»ve, and I hope we can all find some sympathy in our hearts for their ridiculous know-it-all grand standing. Everyone will be able to remember fighting with their parents or a teacher as a young child, insisting that they were right and that they knew exactly what the answer to a situation was, only to find out over time that mom and dad or Mrs. Crabapple at Malow Junior High probably had it right. Apparently, some people take more time to grow out of this phase than others, and I for one will be keeping the maturity and developmental progress of those individuals in my prayers. God speed, foolish queens, God speed.

11 comments:

  1. And to respond to the question "How can anyone assure mason can protect anyone else from being attacked" is simple. Yes the court can be very unsympathetic but is it not reasonable to say that because mason has the KNOWLEDGE to say people are responsible for their own actions and he is somewhat to blame for his attack; that would give him the extra wow factor that puts him above everyone else? they dont think that they are in any way to blame..but mason does..the jury will see that

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  2. Er, Noah, perhaps in your second year of law school, they will teach you the difference between a criminal complaint and a civil case for damages. Just briefly:
    1. A criminal case is brought to court by a prosecutor (or not), following a complaint and an investigation. Mason decided not to pursue his complaint or cooperate with the investigation, so the cops are closing the case. If the creep were found guilty, then Mason would have a good case to sue for monetary damages -- if he had any to get.
    2. The civil negligence case you cite, which is nearly 20 years old, was obviously for monetary damages. The jury didn't think the motel owners were at fault to the extent they should have their business handed over to the victim; or maybe their insurance company fought the case with highly competent attorneys. Either way, this gets back to the nebulous question of how hot is too hot for a cup of McDonalds coffee if you spill it on yourself.

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  3. I don't understand why people are getting excited about all of this, but I'm sure that it is generating a lot of traffic for this blog...

    If he faked it for publicity, then bravo. I had never heard of Mason or this blog before the reporting of his rape was all over other blogs I read. I'm now a subscriber to the blog. Maybe I'll buy something one day. Who knows? The curious rape story got my attention.

    If he didn't fake it, then it sucks that a rapist is essentially allowed to remain free and to perhaps do it again. I would also feel very sorry for Mason, who would not only have had to muster the courage to report the incident in the first place, and then to speak about it in such a public way, only to have to defend the veracity of his trauma. I don't find it unreasonable to believe that Mason is not pressing charges based on the unique circumstances involved.

    There is some pretty good general information here about male victims: http://www.uwstout.edu/cvpp/male_page.html

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  4. Juries don't go on "wow" factor.

    Sometimes you pick your battles. People are acting out against Mason as if he did not take action, but he did more than most, he reported it and made it a matter of public record. The assailant now has a case on his file.

    If you take a case to court, you want a conviction. If you do it and don't get a conviction then you can't bring the assailant back for the same charges. People can make the mistake of rushing action without thinking first and by not being in the correct mindset. Court cases are traumatic and lawyers are hard on people. You have to be ready especially in this type of case.

    Mason did not stand by and do nothing, he did the most important thing, he filed a report.

    Let him weigh his options. He knows his "proof factor". As much as we love to believe in the law, it is imperfect. Mason can be called in regarding his case in the future if another gets attacked. It is sad to say but abuse cases sometimes require multiple cases to convict someone.

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  5. I understand 100% why Mason would not want to relive all the crap. And if a jury can reward someone who spills hot coffee on themselves a court victory against McDonald's because McDonald's did not do enough to warn the plaintiff that the coffee could burn them if it was spilled, I don;t have much faith in the court system.

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  6. I hope you both feel vindicated hiding behind an almost 20 year old case. But your right; Masons the slut that allowed him in your home to begin with and I can't see how anyone could see it any other way beyond his fault.

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  7. Noah, I appreciate that response. I'm a bit puzzled by your statement that you chose to cite that case because it WASN'T germane. Also, it seemed to me that one of your reasons for citing it was precisely to advise victims, Mason and Marc specifically, to be wary of entering into the court system because it may be biased against victims.

    If Mason is telling the truth about the shabby way he was treated by the police, I see that as a poor excuse for not following through. Hell, he could file an official complaint with the proper agency in Dallas that handles such matters in addition to pressing charges. Maybe even file a civil suit against the department. Again, by doing nothing he might be keeping some very bad cops on the street. I understand what you're saying about the effect that experience might have had on his willingness to deal with law enforcement in this matter, but there are other remedies he could have sought other than dropping out of the case.

    Were this case to have gone to trial, I guarantee you that it would have attracted some amount of press, from the gay press at least, and the perp's name would have been reported on, in addition to the details of the court proceedings. Just look how much coverage he got by merely blogging about it.

    The detective who was quoted by the Dallas Voice said the ONLY reason that this case isn't going anywhere is because of Mason's unwillingness to cooperate. Otherwise, assuming his story is real, the rapist would most likey have been apprehended weeks ago. Mason supposedly had the guy's wallet and knew his name. That is so much more than police usually have to go on, and I still find it mind-boggling that Mason didn't turn that evidence in.

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  8. Noah,
    You mention the O.J. Simpson case. He was acquitted in the criminal prosecution and then had a $35 million judgment levied against him in the civil case if I remember correctly. But he was the perpetrator of the crime.

    Michael Jackson was prosecuted in his first molestation case, and blew off the trial by paying the alleged victim not to testify. That is equivalent to losing a civil case for monetary damages in one sense; it was just a shortcut. Then he won the second criminal case, but probably paid off the alleged victim anyway, because a civil case could have still been brought against him.

    Hey, maybe Mason should sue the landlord of his apartment building for negligence because there was no rape detector next to the smoke detector. That is analogous to the case you cited. The motel owners didn't rape that woman, the rapist did. The jurors didn't say she was responsible for the rape; obviously the rapist was. They said she didn't take adequate, sensible precautions.

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  9. I understand where you are coming from Noah, but this is American law we are talking about here. As the world knows, the American government is, let's face it I'm going to be honest with you, corrupt. There is no sense of justice in that community. When you were talking about how Wassell was 97% responsible, then shouldn't the 3% on the other side be dealt with as well? See, signs of corruption with American law and order.
    As you said in the last paragraph, it was Mason's choice to not press charges. I think to be honest that was the better option. Less media coverage=happiness for everyone.
    The last final blow against these people would be that the majority of the "American" population (well actually, you aren't American because your ancestors were European, so basically America=New Europe) are too immature to realise that this is very serious and Mason's life would be in danger. If it was my way, then the entire media network would collapse instantaneously.
    As a final point, curse all of those who seek to destroy the world that we have. It may be a shit hole, and we were too greedy, so the planet's gonna die, but if they wish to harm us, then I hope Karma will deal with them appropiately.
    If any of you have problems with my statement, then you are more than welcome to state your view as well. But I will not back down on my side, believe me. These old bones don't know the meaning of surrender.
    Take care
    Ciao
    Xx_RavsDesire_xX

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  10. Think this is an excellent post. Way to go Noah!

    I am appalled at the reaction to many out there that seem to think that experience Mason and Noah have endured is something they need to be judge and jury on. What these two men have been through is something they are having to deal with and how they decide what is the best course of action for themselves should be respected.

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  11. Rolland, I hate to appall you any further, but I don't see anyone trying to be judge and jury here. My point, anyway, is that a judge and jury in a court of law are exactly the ones who should be hearing about this matter. Mason and Marcus venting on a blog is all well and good but it's ultimately useless.

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