BRYANT FACES TOUGH LAW

WaPo reports that the legal climate in Colorado is not hospitable to Kobe Bryant or others charged with rape:

Defense lawyers and victims advocates here agree that Colorado is a state where both the law and the public mood has grown significantly tougher for accused sexual offenders in recent years.

“You don’t want to be charged with sexual assault anywhere, but Colorado is one of the worst places to be charged with sexual assault,” said Craig Silverman, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor in Denver. “Over the past five years, the legislature has rewritten the statutes and beefed up the penalties. The goal is to isolate a sexual offender from society, and then keep him under tight supervision basically for life.”

Obviously, a good goal. But one would hope it would apply only to actual sex offenders.

[This case] could turn, to a considerable extent, on his word against hers. But the pattern in recent “acquaintance-rape” cases in this state has been for juries to side with the alleged victim, notes University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos.

“If you review the Colorado cases, you can see that the pendulum has swung toward the victim,” Campos says. “You get convictions in some date-rape situations strictly on the women’s testimony, with no corroborative evidence of a struggle or a contemporaneous complaint.”

Jill McFadden, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a government-funded advocacy office, says that “women who are sexually assaulted still have a tough time convincing juries that they were victims.” But she agrees the law and the mood in this state have changed markedly.

“It’s a combination of Republicans who want to be tough on crime and Democrats who are concerned about human rights, women’s rights,” McFadden said. “Both sides can agree when it comes to sexual offenses. The result is that Colorado has moved ahead of many states in dealing with sexual assault and with convicted offenders.”

I’m sure that, like much reporting, this is overly reliant on anecdotal evidence. But this seems a rather dangerous trend. The state is supposed to face a heavy burden before denying those accused of crimes their liberty. If we create a system where the jury pool is predisposed to convict anyone charged with the most serious crimes, it reverses the burden of proof. This isn’t a good thing.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.