Steubenville Rape Case: What About The VictimPosted: February 5, 2013
Last week, Judge Thomas Lipps ruled that the upcoming Steubenville Ohio gang rape trial involving 2 Big Red high school football players and a 16-year-old girl will be open to the public and the media against the objections of the prosecution and the victim’s family.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, ” (Judge) Lipps noted the names of the defendants and the details of the case were in the public realm and the alleged victim’s name also was made public by some media. He noted there have been “community rumors” and “misinformation” circulated–a problem the judge said could be curbed by keeping the case open. Responsible media presence will mean more accurate reporting. Lipps also said the seriousness of the charges meant the public has an interest in the outcome.”
Misinformation and community rumors happen in nearly every case, why the interest in curbing it in this case?
Judge Lipps also said it was “important to have open proceedings to squelch talk and opinions about the case that have sprouted in social media and elsewhere online. An open hearing will diminish the influence of such postings and publications”, as reported in the Toledo Blaze.
Interesting comment. But for the social media evidence, the texts, tweets and cellphone video would there have been a prosecution? Surely, the judge didn’t mean to imply an interest in “diminishing” free speech and free press rights?
So, curbing “rumors”, “misinformation”, “talk” and “diminishing the influence of postings and publications” trumps the impact of an open trial on a 16-year-old rape victim? The defense has raised the “intimidation” concern, what about a victim’s “right to be free from intimidation” under Ohio’s Victim’s Bill of Rights Ohio Revised Code 2930. Maybe, it doesn’t apply to juvenile victims? Or, maybe a 16-year-old rape victim wouldn’t be intimidated by testifying in public? (See more info on Victim’s Rights)
What about the defendant’s right to a fair trial? Isn’t avoiding potential harm to our children more important than curbing “rumors” and “talk”? Besides, what “rumors”, “talk” and “misinformation” is the judge referring to? And, who or what is harmed by such “talk”?
How many other juvenile victims will have the courage to come forward now and face the glare and scrutiny of the media, their neighbors and the “talk” of the town?
In many jurisdictions, juvenile proceedings are closed to the public to afford confidentiality and privacy for the juvenile offenders. Judges can certainly close juvenile proceedings to the public upon the substantial probability of harm to the parties, or emotional trauma of testifying in public, especially in sexual assault cases. Since the US Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on whether the public has a constitutional right to access juvenile proceedings, the decision is left to the court to decide.
In Ohio, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to have an open proceeding. (See Ohio Revised Code 2151.35)
I wonder if Judge Lipps has ever represented a rape victim?
Simply my opinion, what say you?