Does Hillary Need To Atone For Her Handling Of The 1975 Rape Case?
The Hillary Rodham of 1975 did nothing wrong in the rape case. The Hillary Rodham Clinton of 2016 should respond to the issues that have arisen since then around this case. I write this article as an expert in the field of sexual trauma, providing psychotherapy for victim/survivors since 1986, and, since about 2006 working with sex offenders as well. It is possible that some of my colleagues will disagree with my analysis of the case and I look forward to hearing from them if they do.
— Justin Haskins (@TheNewRevere) September 20, 2016
At the end of this piece I will suggest what Hillary should be saying now, as presidential candidate, should this issue come up.
Briefly, this case involved a 12-year-old who accused Tom Taylor, a 42-year-old man of having raped her. They were not strangers. The victim went willingly out for a drive late at night with Tom, his 20-year-old cousin and a 15-year-old on whom the victim had had a crush. The girl had been sleeping over at a friend’s house.
Did Hillary Volunteer to Represent the Accused in the 1975 Rape Case?
It is not important whether Hillary volunteered to participate in the 1975 rape case, as some suggest, or did so under duress. There can be all kinds of reasons that can bring a young lawyer to represent such a heinous criminal in a court of law. Curiosity is one possible reason: curiosity about what it is like defending someone in criminal court, for example. While defending a sex offender is repulsive to most people, if you indict Hillary for having defended one accused rapist, then you have to indict all lawyers who defend violent offenders and you have to indict all social workers and therapists working in the prisons that hold those found guilty. And we cannot do that, can we? Otherwise who would carry out these necessary tasks?
Another possible reason for Hillary to volunteer in the 1975 rape case is that she may have believed that her performance in that case could further her law career or help develop the reputation of the legal aid clinic she helped run. That is also legitimate.
Regardless of whether she volunteered or was conscripted to defend the accused, she made the right decision when she determined to give him the best defense she could. That is just what lawyers are supposed to do. I can only imagine that those being helped by the Innocence Project wish that she had been their lawyer when they had originally face a judge and jury.
Why Did Hillary Attack the Child Victim in the 1975 Rape Case?
Attacking the rape victim’s character, previous sexual experience, etc. was a common defense ploy, allowed by the courts at that time. Careful consideration of the documents in the 1975 rape case, however, shows that Hillary did not in fact attack the victim; there was no court case in which she had any opportunity to do so. The complaint that she attacked the victim lies in the fact that she requested a psych exam of the victim. However, she had no choice but to request the exam because, according to Fact Check, her client had suggested motivations for the plaintiff to lie about having been raped. She had to follow that avenue of investigation.
Hillary was not very smart about the motion unless she actually wanted it to work against her client in that she ordered the victim to select the psychiatrist and to pay for it herself. This allowed the defense no leeway in selecting someone that might have been more biased in favor of the accused.
If it was an error, it was arguably a beginner’s mistake. If it was calculated to support the plaintiff, she cannot admit to that now or ever. Since the 1975 rape case did not go to trial, we will never know how the psych exam turned out.
Why Did the Prosecution Agree to a Plea Bargain?
There are apparently three reasons the case was closed with a plea bargain. Firstly, the prosecution may have been negligent in its handling of the main piece of damning evidence – the underwear belonging to the accused. Hillary claimed to be able to bring from New York one of the top forensic experts whose testimony would get that evidence disqualified. Scare tactics like this are not unusual and it may be that the prosecution had some reason to feel threatened.
Secondly, according to Glenn Thrush, in a News Day article published in 2008 (no longer available online), the victim’s mother wanted to keep her daughter out of court as she did not believe her daughter could withstand testifying in the presence of the accused. The special measures protecting minor victims in court today were not available in 1975.
Thirdly, Thrush also found that the prosecution did not know how to deal with the supposedly complicating issue of her crush on the 15-year-old, who allegedly had sex with her first (there is no suggestion that she was an unwilling partner in this in spite of her young age). Today, prosecutors should have less difficulty overcoming what may appear to be a damning factor. Rape myths still plague legal professionals as well as the general public, but to a lesser degree today than in 1975.
What Should the Prosecution Have Done Differently?
Taylor was only charged with rape. Yet, it appears that the victim was also beaten. Therefore, assault and battery could likely have been added to the charges. The men had purchased whiskey and it is probable they had made sure the victim was drunk. This adds another charge.
The girl had been sleeping over at a friend’s house. Where were the friend’s parents or other supervising adult? Negligence charges should perhaps have been filed.
The prosecutor should not have been pressured by Hillary’s apparent bravado. He could have brought in experts of his own – his own forensic expert, his own child development or trauma expert, for example. Given the information available to us, I wonder if the failure to convict is more because of the poor handling of the case on the part of the prosecution than anything else.
Hillary’s Conduct During a Taped Interview
Hillary laughed when telling interviewer Roy Reed about how she lost faith in polygraph tests because Taylor passed it. This statement was unethical on her part, as a lawyer should never reveal anything about her client that she has not received permission to do. I doubt Taylor allowed Hillary to tell the world that she thought/knew he was guilty.Her laugh also seems to betray the fact that she believed he was guilty as charged even though he later accepted a plea bargain to lesser charges.
If I want to be generous to her, I might say that this laugh was from embarrassment and not amusement. One could imagine that she was conflicted about having represented a grown man who had raped a 12-year-old, about letting him reap the benefits of her determination to do her job thoroughly and well.
But then she laughed when she described how she outwitted the prosecution: she told the prosecutor she could get a world famous expert to dispute the only piece of physical evidence that existed tying Taylor to the rape. Her words were: “Well, this guy’s ready to come from New York to prevent this miscarriage of justice.” [laughter] That was no laugh of embarrassment. As much as I want to be open to all possible interpretations, it sounds like a laugh of glee to me. Of pride. However that still casts no aspersions on her handling the case itself.
How Hillary Needs to Respond Today
I don’t know if Hillary feels any need to rehabilitate her reputation as a warrior on the side of women’s and children’s rights that was slightly damaged by disclosure of details of this case and the way she laughed in her interview. But regardless, when asked about the case, she should not say anything other than something like:
It is the duty of the defendant’s lawyer to provide the best professional defense humanly possible and if you want to accuse me of something, accuse me of doing my job well. I hope all defense attorneys behave as diligently as I did because, as we have seen, sometimes innocent people have been found guilty of crime and have lost valuable years off their lives because of that. At the same time, I am happy that court proceedings have progressed with time given our growing understanding of sexual offences, sexual offenders and minor and adult victims of sexual crimes.
In other words, I think Hillary has nothing to apologize for regarding her handling of the 1975 rape case. There are many criticisms of presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, but this issue cannot be added to the list.