Friday, July 1, 2011

DSK case falling apart


Seamus Walsh photo
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief and once touted as possibly the next president of France, may just walk out of court in New York City a free man.
The sexual assault case against DSK is falling apart – because the hotel maid who is accusing him – has a serious veracity issue.
Picking apart the credibility of an accuser in a sexual assault case is a common defense tactic. But, reportedly, the woman who claimed she was assaulted by DSK in a posh Times Square hotel is of questionable character – having, reports say, a bank account stuffed with $100,000 with what news organizations are describing as “dirty cash” and having close personal ties with a drug dealer.
As this progresses, there are interesting questions to be examined about presumptions.
Were the leaks and the perp walk and the coverage in this case unfair to the accused? Did the public, by extension, rush to judgment? And did that taint the jury pool?
On the other side of the equation, does it really matter the character of the maid? What if she has unsavory connections? Does that necessarily mean she’s lying about the assault? Does that automatically let DSK off the hook?
I remember, very early in my news reporting career, covering a local case of a prostitute who accused a man (not a customer) of raping her. The defense tried to get the accused off the hook because – well – come on. The accused was a street whore.
The prosecutor objected, declaring to the judge, “prostitutes have rights too!” It worked. She got her conviction.
But credibility is an interesting matter in court cases. Mark Furman’s entire testimony about the OJ Simpson investigation was discounted by the jury when he got caught lying about whether he had ever used the “n” word.
In the Casey Anthony trial, the defense is picking away at her father’s testimony by bringing in a woman who claims to have had an affair with him while his granddaughter – later found dead – was found missing. George Anthony had testified in court, with his wife sitting in the back row, that he had not had an affair.
The “other woman” was quite convincing on the stand. But if he lied about the affair, does that necessarily mean he lied when he denied he had sexually assaulted his own daughter?
The DSK case deserves to be watched. And, if in the end, he is acquitted, what does that tell us about our criminal justice system, media coverage of high profile cases and our tendency to rush to judgment?

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