Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Nebraska judge bans the word rape from his courtroom

Dahlia Lithwick has fascinating commentary about language battles in a sexual assault case. A Nebraska judge bans the word rape from his courtroom,, June 20, 2007.

The defense successfully moved to bar witnesses from saying "rape," "sexual assault," "victim," and "sexual assault kit." The concern is that "rape" is so inflammatory that jurors would make their decision based on emotion rather than reason. But the victim is left having to describe what she experienced as a rape as "intercourse" or "sex."

The jury deadlocked in the first trial.

The case went to trial again in July, but the judge (Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront) declared a mistrial because of high publicity, including a protest of the language ruling by rape victim advocates. Safi mistrial raises questions about costs, Lincoln Journal Star, July 14, 2007.

See also Putting the Term "Rape" on Trial, Time, July 23, 2007.

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