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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Kobe and the Rape Shield

I've been rather single-mindedly posting on politics of late, but the rest of the world keeps moving, so how about the first KobeCase post in a long while? The latest item is a debate over whether the woman accusing Kobe of rape should have her sexual history open to questioning or not. The prosecution says they're taking this up with the Colorado Supreme Court, hoping they will cite the state's rape shield law to rule such questioning out of bounds.

TalkLeft has a good thread with commenters tossing barbs back and forth about whether the sexual history is relevant. I think it clearly is and should be fair game. The rape shield law is based on a worthy premise--making rape victims more willing to come forward--but it also needs to recognize that people accused of sexual assault have to be allowed to defend themselves. The questions about the woman's sexual history directly address crucial issues of the alleged victim's injuries and the credibility of her claims, and without that we're left with an unsatisfying he said-she said case. Besides, the woman is at least formally anonymous in this process, and it seems rather unfair to me that the defendant can be scrutinized thoroughly while the accuser can't be. All the people who complain about the Bryant defense team trying the case in the media really have a gripe with the way the media function, rather than the justice system, I would submit.