Why Campus Rape Tribunals Hand Down So Many 'Guilty' Verdicts

Posted by Keith Hall | Dec 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

An interesting article was recently published by "The Weekly Standard" that looked at the link between federal training requirements for those who decide these cases.  In part the article stated:

In November 2014, a female member of Brown University's debate team had oral sex with a male colleague while they watched a movie. Eleven months later, she filed a complaint with Brown, accusing him of sexual assault.

Both parties in the case had credibility issues; he had violated a no-contact order, she had withheld from the university the bulk of their text messages. But the accused student possessed strong exculpatory evidence. He produced the full record of their communications, which included texts from the accuser to him discussing the encounter in a highly positive fashion and referencing a “plan” to have sex again. Further, a friend of the accuser, who saw her shortly after the incident, recalled her raving about her “really hot” experience.

Nonetheless, Brown's disciplinary panel returned a guilty finding by 2-to-1. The decisive vote came from Besenia Rodriguez, the university's associate dean for curriculum.

In subsequent court testimony after the accused sued Brown, Rodriguez admitted that she had not considered the accuser's text messages or other post-incident behavior as having any bearing on the case. The reason, she said, was the hours of training that Brown had provided to prepare her to adjudicate the complaint—training required by the federal government. Rodriguez was specifically told that the impact of trauma on sexual-assault victims often causes them to behave in counterintuitive ways, such as not being able to recount a consistent set of facts or choosing to communicate with (rather than to avoid) the alleged assailant. “I felt like it couldn't—I couldn't really put myself in her shoes to understand why she was representing it that way,” explained Rodriguez, “so best not to attempt to judge her behavior.”

But judging the accuser's behavior, noted U.S. District Judge William Smith, “was precisely her job as a panel member: to interpret the evidence and make factual determinations about it.” He added, “It appears what happened here was that a training presentation was given that resulted in at least one panelist completely disregarding an entire category of evidence”—evidence severely damaging to the accuser's credibility.

You can read more of this article here.  I have similarly observed that schools investigators and decision makers are choosing to always believe accusers, in spite of often time overwhelming or at least equal evidence to the contrary.  I believe that the "me too" movement, along with political pressure, and junk science is making it extremely difficult for an accused student to get a fair hearing regarding these issues.  I hope that eventually the pendulum will swing back to allow for fairness to those that are accused of sexual wrongdoing, but at this time it is very hard to get a fair trial or hearing on these accusations.  

About the Author

Keith Hall

Keith is our firm's lead criminal defense attorney.

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