Steubenville Rape Case: What About The Victim

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.

Why?

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?

You may want to read my other related posts DOJ sues Steubenville Police Department civil rights violations, Ohio & Indian Rape cases asks us all one question and impact of testifying on a victim.

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6 Comments on “Steubenville Rape Case: What About The Victim”

  1. Michael Benevento says:

    As I’ve watched this situation unfold, I have to force myself to remember that all defendants are to be presumed innocent until such a time comes that they are proven guilty, including the defendants in the Steubenville rape case. As much as it bothers me to think that they just might be innocent, we must let the system work. In this case, however, someone had to make the system work. Enter KnightSec. This case would’ve never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for them. And let’s not forget that Sheriff Abdalla was arrested, tried, and acquitted on seven charges in federal court in Columbus, Ohio. It’s hard to tell what’s going on in Steubenville, but whatever it is, it isn’t honest, that’s for sure. And there’s a county prosecutor there who’s hands are just as dirty. That video was said to have been taken in her basement. The whole thing makes me physically sick. And it seems that Mike DeWine, the Attorney General of Ohio is trying to throw the case. We’ll see, but it doesn’t look good.

    • Michael, thank you for your opinion. No question, the defendants are presumed innocent until the evidence proves otherwise. Keep in mind the Steubenville prosecutors and the bench were recused and an outside Judge was called in to hear the case. Yet, it remains concerning that Steubenville, even today, still has the same city attorney (law director) and police chief, a patrolmen back then, who appear to have been on duty during the period of the excessive civil rights violations in the 1990’s (the basis of the DOJ lawsuit). And, it is also concerning to discover that it took the Steubenville Police Department over 8 years to comply with the settlement terms of the Department of Justice lawsuit.

  2. mick harris says:

    as i look at the video the rapist made of themselves i wonder why there has to be a trial , for most people there wouldn’t be. but not everyones mom is a prosecuter and good friend of every one in the court system and why are there only 2 charged, guilt by association. any one there that didn’t immediately call police should be charged.
    with the self incriminating evidence if there is not a conviction in this case, then the judicial system in ohio is a JOKE.

  3. mick harris says:

    what about kidnapping charges ? she was forcibly moved room to room and held against her will,thats mandatory life here in iowa!!

  4. Jill Estensen says:

    Sounds like Ohio is stuck in 1950’s Alabama. I read an article in Rolling Stone Magazine called the angry grandma. It was an interview with Roseanne Barr. She didn’t say much in the interview but was seriously upset by what was happening in Steubenville. She said she’d been contacted by anonymous kids. High school football players have been and still are protected, as are other professional sports figures. They may at some point make a business person lots of money so they must be excused from behaviors and sicknesses that the rest of the human population must suffer from or pay for. Enough OHIO!


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