Should A Rape Court Case Be Live Blog?

You may remember this rape case that made headlines on March 4, 2007: a 17-year-old girl was plied with alcohol until she passed out at an off-campus party, ended up on the floor of a bedroom where eight men—seven were from the De Anza College baseball team—took turns having sex with her, three women from the soccer team broke into the bedroom to rescue the comatose teenager to take her to the hospital, and the district attorney’s office declined to file charges due to the lack of evidence two months later. The young victim is now having her day in civil court to seek justice that was denied to her. The San Jose Mercury News is live blogging the case with an hour-by-hour summary.

The whole idea of live blogging a rape case comes across to me as being a form of voyeurism, where the carnival barker cries out every hour to the passing crowds to look through the peephole to see an unspeakable horror that they would never want to experience themselves. This reminds me of the O.J. Simpson murder case that was a media sensation that did nothing more than to turn the legal system into a media circus. Of course, this civil case isn’t being broadcast live on national television and concerns probably no one except for people living in Silicon Valley.

I would feel more comfortable reading the end-of-day summary about this case. Some information that seems relevant in an hour-by-hour summary is often lost as being irrelevant in the end-of-day summary. The Los Angeles Times will sometimes create stub articles on their website to focus on one aspect of a developing story—for example, the rioting that took place after the L.A. Lakers won a championship basketball game—that will later disappear when the finished article is posted. One such stub article focused on the fact that most of the rioters were minorities, which elicited comments from readers that minorities could always be counted on to destroy property. The stub article and comments disappeared the next morning. The finished article made no references about race but featured a photo of two white guys jumping on the hood of a car.

What have we learned so far from this civil case?

The victim had two beers and a dozen vodka shots. She spite an ex-boyfriend by agreeing to go into the bedroom to make out with a different guy. The defense is arguing that she consented to have sex with eight guys. Two beers and a dozen vodka shots, I don’t think so. No woman in her sober mind would consent to being gang-banged comatose. Anyone who had that much booze in their system is incapable of granting consent. The fact that she was underaged should have been obvious that she wasn’t able to give legal consent, sober or not.

The defense had tried to undermine the victim’s creditability by introducing pictures from her Facebook account, including one showing her on a bunk with a guy lying on top of her, that she is still a party girl at heart. This is the sleaziest part of the civil trial. The defense can’t say that the men weren’t there in the room with her, so they need to cast doubt and blame on her to prove themselves blameless. A study came out today that women who post lots of photos on Facebook need attention. Considering what the victim went through, and not knowing what kind of help she had gotten over the last four years, she may still be crying out for attention and still attracting the wrong kind.

We do finally get an explanation to why the District Attorney’s office never filed charges. The three women who rescued the victim took her directly to the hospital without calling the police from the party house. They had the opportunity and the means to collaborate on their stories to implicate all the guys. Due to a turf dispute between different police agencies, the crime scene itself was not secured until seven hours after the victim was brought to the hospital. The guys had the opportunity and the means to clean up the crime scene and collaborate on their stories. I can see why this would lead the district attorney’s office not to file any charges if an outright victory wasn’t guarantee.

But there is one question that always bothered me about this case: Did the district attorney’s office drop the ball on this case because most of the men accused were college baseball players?

In California, it’s not unheard of for school administrators to piss, moan and groan that there is no money for buying school supplies, reducing class sizes and updating older buildings. However, when it comes to building a brand new, state of the art sports field, money can always be found in a hurry. We live in a society that enables “bad boy” behavior in celebrities, politicians and sports stars. (Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson are this week’s celebrity specials.) I wouldn’t surprised if the baseball players got special preferential treatment from the district attorney’s office in this case. After all, baseball is as American as Mom and apple pie.

And so is rape, live blogging or not.