[Marxism] Navy Hearing in Rape Case Raises Alarm
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 21 07:58:10 MDT 2013
NY Times September 20, 2013
Navy Hearing in Rape Case Raises Alarm
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
WASHINGTON — For roughly 30 hours over several days, defense lawyers for
three former United States Naval Academy football players grilled a
female midshipman about her sexual habits. In a public hearing, they
asked the woman, who has accused the three athletes of raping her,
whether she wore a bra, how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex
and whether she had apologized to another midshipman with whom she had
intercourse “for being a ho.”
The aggressive tactics on display this month and last are part of a case
that has generated intense public scrutiny and raised alarms about what
are called Article 32 proceedings, which help determine whether cases
are sent to courts-martial. Article 32 hearings permit questions not
allowed in civilian courts and can include cross-examinations of
witnesses so intense that legal experts say they frighten many victims
from coming forward.
“These have become their own trials,” said Jonathan Lurie, a professor
emeritus of legal history at Rutgers University and the author of two
books on military justice. “If this is what Article 32 has come to be,
then it is time to either get rid of it or put real restrictions on the
conduct during them.”
More broadly, the case at the Naval Academy illuminates what critics say
is wrong with trying sexual assault cases in the current military
justice system, which is under scrutiny in Congress. One bill to be
debated this fall, sponsored by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat
of New York, would take the prosecution of sexual assault cases outside
a victim’s chain of command, with a goal of increasing the number of
people who report crimes without fear of retaliation.
In the coming weeks, the military judge who presided over the female
midshipman’s hearing will send a recommendation to the Naval Academy’s
superintendent on how the charges should be disposed of. The
superintendent, Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, will ultimately decide
whether to move ahead with a court-martial or drop the case.
Increased scrutiny of the problem of sexual assault in the military,
combined with more reporting of attacks, has led to a large jump in the
number of such cases that have gone to court-martial. The Defense
Department says that 68 percent of sexual assault cases were sent to
court-martial last year, compared with 30 percent in 2007.
But those increases have been accompanied by a series of controversies
that have roiled the system, including one at Lackland Air Force Base in
Texas in which more than 40 female trainees were abused by their
instructors, as well as the arrest in May of the director of the Air
Force’s sexual response unit, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, for what the
police said was his groping of a woman he did not know in a parking lot.
A recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults
took place in the military last year, up from 19,000 two years before.
The Naval Academy case stems from a 2012 “yoga and toga” off-campus
party near the academy in Annapolis, Md., where the woman, then a
20-year-old sophomore, arrived intoxicated and continued to drink, she
said. In testimony at the hearing, held at the Washington Navy Yard, she
said she had no memory of parts of the evening and may have passed out.
The next day, the woman testified, she heard from a friend of one of the
three football players via social media that she had had sex with them
at an Annapolis home known as “the football house.” The football players
— Tra’ves Bush, 22; Eric Graham, 21; and Joshua Tate, 21 — were charged
with sexually assaulting her and making false statements. The
investigation was stymied in part by the woman’s initial refusal to
cooperate, academy officials said.
In the Article 32 cross-examination, defense lawyers repeatedly asked
the midshipman about a consensual sexual encounter she said she had the
next day. In some of the most widely disseminated testimony, Andrew
Weinstein, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, asked the woman whether she wore a bra
or other underwear to the party and whether she “felt like a ho”
afterward. Lt. Cmdr. Angela Tang, a lawyer for Mr. Graham, also asked
the woman repeatedly about her oral sex technique, arguing over
objections from the prosecution that oral sex would indicate the “active
participation” of the woman and therefore consent.
Many military legal experts were appalled by what they heard. “What this
case shows is that we think the military justice system can somehow
solve the sexual assault problem, but it can’t,” said Diane H. Mazur, an
emeritus law professor at the University of Florida. Several military
justice experts said Article 32 proceedings should be eliminated.
But Defense Department officials, as well as lawyers and other
supporters of the current system, say that Article 32 proceedings can
help victims and offer reasonable protections to those accused of crimes.
“The purpose of the Article 32 hearing is twofold,” said Victor M.
Hansen, a former military lawyer who is now an associate dean at the New
England School of Law in Boston. “One is to ensure there is sufficient
evidence to go to trial, and it provides an opportunity for the defense
to discover evidence. The prosecution also might want the victim to have
a dry run. So there are some advantages there for victims.”
But Mr. Hansen said the process could be changed to look more like
proceedings for civilian rape trials, in which questions about a woman’s
sexual techniques would not be allowed. In civilian courts, rape shield
laws either prohibit or limit questions about a woman’s sexual history.
Susan Burke, the lawyer for the female midshipman, has filed a federal
lawsuit seeking to strip the authority of the Naval Academy’s
superintendent over the case. The superintendent does not attend the
proceedings, but he decides whether to send a case to a court-martial,
determines who serves on the court-martial jury and has the power to
uphold or overturn the jury’s findings.
“I have been contacted by many, many rape victims told they had to go
through this abusive process,” Ms. Burke said. “One of the complexities
is they are forced to go through this, but the decision maker is not in
The Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, which reviews potential
changes to military law, is considering a proposal that would give
sexual assault victims in Article 32 hearings new protections to shield
them from the kind of questioning the midshipman experienced.
The measure has picked up the support of several prominent retired
generals, including Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, who in 1997 became the
first woman to reach the rank of three-star general, and Brig. Gen.
Loree K. Sutton, who served as the highest-ranking psychiatrist in the Army.
“What we have now is a deepening erosion of trust in the military,”
General Sutton said. “There is no doubt in my mind that our senior
leadership are concerned about this. What I am less confident about is
that they know what it takes to fix the problem.”
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