Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Naming Names in Sexual Assault Cases; Is the American practice fair?
Should someone accused of a crime be publicly identified by the authorities before conviction? If so, should the accuser be as well?
The arrest in New York of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges is being handled quite differently in France and America. The French are enraged by Strauss-Kahn’s “perp walk,” the American police practice of parading an accused in public, allowing the media to take photographs and yell questions. In France, releasing images of an accused before conviction violates his presumption of innocence and so is illegal.
Divergent cultural traditions account for the different reactions in the two countries. For one thing, the French are notoriously tolerant of their politicians’ sexual misdeeds, including criminal ones, which are rarely publicized. They are also less protective of accusers; for example, Slate France unapologetically published the name of Strauss-Kahn’s alleged victim. By contrast, the American media have a strong tradition of naming the accused and protecting the accuser.
Culture and the media quite properly evolve their own standards, as do law enforcement, legislatures, and the judiciary. Are there sound legal reasons for publicly identifying or protecting either the accused or the accuser?
Anonymity for either cannot be rooted in an appeal for privacy because a criminal procedure, to be just, must be public and transparent rather than secret. Nor can protection be based on a person’s prominence or other special characteristic because that would embed a double standard into the law, creating legal privileges.
It is an almost universal practice in America for the police to release an accused’s name and to include it in public documents. Indeed, it is increasingly common for the photo of those arrested to be posted on police public websites.
Yet in sexual assault cases the names of accusers are typically withheld. Court documents often refer to accusers as “Jane Doe,” and judges have been known to gag the media.
Two common explanations are advanced for treating such an accuser’s identity so differently: 1) to protect the purported victim from further trauma; and 2) to encourage future victims to come forward. Neither of these rests on theories of judicial transparency or equality under the law. Indeed, they violate them.
Begging the Question
The first defense appeals to compassion: A sexual assault victim should not be brutalized a second time by publicity. This defense fails, however, because it presumes precisely what is in question: Is the accuser a victim? Until a fair trial occurs, it is the defendant, not the plaintiff, who should be presumed innocent, with the burden of proof resting on the prosecution. Moreover if compassion protects the accuser’s identity, then logically it should also protect the accused, who might otherwise be falsely dragged through an ordeal that ruins his reputation.
The second defense speaks to future accusers. If identities are publicized, women will not report crimes such as rape. By lowering standards of accountability, which identification provides, it does seem likely that reports would increase. But how many would be false reports? There is nothing positive about increasing the number of accusations unless they are accompanied by standards to ensure their accuracy and the rights of the accused.
What’s more, an accuser’s anonymity decreases the likelihood of a fair trial. When an accused rapist is publicly named, other victims can come forward and add their testimony. By contrast, when an accuser remains unnamed, witnesses who could discredit her account are unaware of the proceedings.
Equal Treatment under Law
Transparency, equal treatment under law, and a defendant’s presumption of innocence all seem to dictate that both accused and accuser should be identified.
These issues and others surrounding the Strauss-Kahn case will not disappear. Indeed, the case is poised to become more explosive as the accuser herself will likely be harshly judged, at least in Europe. Strauss-Kahn is prominent in France; as a member of the Socialist Party, he was widely expected to replace Nicolas Sarkozy as president. A recent poll found that 57 percent of the French public believes the arrest is part of a political conspiracy; many suspect American involvement. The percentage of conspiracy theorists rises to 70 percent among French socialists.
American police would be well advised to avoid further perp walks, the purpose of which does seem to be humiliation rather than justice.
Women are more attracted to traditional manly men
Real women like real men
Women find happy men significantly less sexually attractive than those who swagger or brood, researchers said today. They are least attracted to smiling men, instead preferring those who looked proud and powerful, or moody and ashamed, according to a study.
In contrast, men are most sexually attracted to women who look happy, and least attracted to those who appear proud and confident.
The University Of British Columbia study, which is the first to report a significant gender difference in the attractiveness of smiles, helps explain the enduring allure of 'bad boys' and other iconic gender stereotypes. It is also the first study to investigate the attractiveness of displays of pride and shame.
Lead researcher Professor Jessica Tracy said: 'While showing a happy face is considered essential to friendly social interactions, including those involving sexual attraction - few studies have actually examined whether a smile is, in fact, attractive. 'This study finds that men and women respond very differently to displays of emotion, including smiles.'
More than 1,000 adult participants rated the sexual attractiveness of hundreds of images of the opposite sex. These photos included universal displays of happiness (broad smiles), pride (raised heads, puffed-up chests) and shame (lowered heads, averted eyes).
The researchers found that women were least attracted to smiling, happy men - in contrast to men, who were most attracted to women who looked happy. Overall, the researchers said, men rank women more attractive than women rank men.
Study co-author Alec Beall said: 'It is important to remember that this study explored first-impressions of sexual attraction to images of the opposite sex.
'We were not asking participants if they thought these targets would make a good boyfriend or wife - we wanted their gut reactions on carnal, sexual attraction.'
'The results reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures'
He said previous studies have found positive emotional traits and a nice personality to be highly desirable in a relationship partners.
Professor Tracy and Mr Beall said that other studies suggest that what people find attractive has been shaped by centuries of evolutionary and cultural forces. For example, evolutionary theories suggest females are attracted to male displays of pride because they imply status, competence and an ability to provide for a partner and offspring.
According to Mr Beall, the pride expression accentuates typically masculine physical features, such as upper body size and muscularity. 'Previous research has shown that these features are among the most attractive male physical characteristics, as judged by women,' he said.
The researchers said more work is needed to understand the differing responses to happiness, but suggest the phenomenon can also be understood according to principles of evolutionary psychology, as well as socio-cultural gender norms.
For example, past research has associated smiling with a lack of dominance, which is consistent with traditional gender norms of the 'submissive and vulnerable' woman, but inconsistent with the 'strong, silent' man.
Professor Tracy said: 'Generally, the results appear to reflect some very traditional gender norms and cultural values that have emerged, developed and been reinforced through history, at least in Western cultures.
'These include norms and values that many would consider old-fashioned and perhaps hoped that we've moved beyond.'
British Muslims on bin Laden's side
The Bin Laden backlash: Angry Muslims demonstrate outside Downing Street as Obama visits Britain
Muslim activists descended on Downing Street today in protest at Barack Obama's state visit to London. As the president met David Cameron in Whitehall, an angry crowd of burka clad women as well as protesters from Muslims Against Crusades gathered on the streets outside.
They were joined by a number of prominent campaigners, including Anjem Choudary.The radical cleric said that President Obama has made himself a 'legitimate target' for Muslim extremists after the killing of Osama bin Laden. He called for Mr Obama to be dragged before a sharia court over his role in the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking before the march on Downing Street Choudary said Mr Obama was enemy number one for Muslims. Choudary said Obama was an 'even greater killer of Muslims' than his predecessor George Bush. He said: 'Just like Osama Bin Laden is the number one enemy for the west, Obama is for Muslims.
'He is a war criminal, it goes without saying. He has slain more Muslims than even his predecessor George Bush and has overseen the escalation of the war on Islam. 'He must be arrested and face a sharia court for his crimes.'
He added: 'The only security risk in today's march will be because some may see him as a legitimate target for what he has done. 'The anti-Obama camp is far bigger than the pro-Obama.
Choudary said he was also holding the demonstration to voice his disapproval with the way the U.S. administration killed terrorist chief Osama bin Laden. He said: 'They say they believe in justice and yet they act like common criminals breaking in and killing a man. 'If they wanted justice they should have captured Osama and taking him to a Sharia Court to face charges instead they act like common criminals and murders.'
Choudary was eventually dragged away by police, prompting scuffles to break out with his supporters.
Four lazy British cops to face misconduct hearings over Fiona Pilkington death
Four police officers will face misconduct proceedings over failures to stop a gang terrorising a woman who killed herself and her disabled daughter, a watchdog said today.
An inspector, a sergeant and two constables will be quizzed over their actions after investigators ruled that Leicestershire Police should have done more to identify Fiona Pilkington and her 18-year-old daughter Francesca Hardwick as vulnerable.
The mistake "lay at the core of their failure to provide a cohesive and effective approach to the anti-social behaviour the family suffered", an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry found.
In October 2007, the single mother set fire to the family's car while she and her 18-year-old daughter Frankie sat inside. Their deaths came after the family were abused by a gang of youths on their street in Barwell, Leicestershire, for more than a decade.
In September, a coroner holding an inquest into their deaths, criticised Leicestershire Police and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council for failing to help the struggling mother. The hearing was told Ms Pilkington contacted police 33 times in 10 years after she, Francecca and her son Anthony, now 19, were tormented by a mob of up to 16 youths, some as young as 10.
Their house was regularly pelted with eggs, flour and stones, while on one occasion the gang shouted at Francesca, who had the mental age of a four-year-old, to lift up her nightdress as she went to bed. Anthony was often beaten up or verbally abused, once being locked in a shed at knifepoint by the gang.
But despite Ms Pilkington's repeated pleas for help, the police failed to act and she was driven to such despair that she killed herself and her daughter.
The family's solicitor Jocelyn Cockburn of Hodge Jones & Allen LLP said: "The family welcomes the IPCC investigation into the police conduct and hopes that it will lead to improvements in the way that victims of anti-social behaviour and hate crime are dealt with by the police."
"The family know first hand the terrible impact of such behaviour on vulnerable people and they dearly hope that other victims will be helped by this case." "The family are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of Fiona and Francesca and therefore they ask the press to respect their privacy and not to make any approach to them directly."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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