Even after those two New York City officers were acquitted of rape, I find myself turning the details over and over. The jury may have come to the right conclusion, legally speaking, but sometimes what’s legally right in a courtroom doesn’t feel right from the outside. Like you, Jessica , I found the alleged rape victim’s testimony’s riveting and believable, and apparent contradictions by the officers troubling. There was the time officer Kenneth Moreno, who was accused of raping the woman while his partner acted as a lookout, said on the stand that he did indeed snuggle with the women but nothing more, and explained, onimously, that he didn’t tell his partner about it because he “doesn’t kiss and tell .”
There was Moreno’s mix of direct and indirect denials to the woman when she confronted him after the incident while wearing a wire. “You don’t have to worry about anything,” he kept saying when she asked him if she needed to worry about STDs. Moreno’s defenders have said – and at least one juror appeared to believe – that during that recorded conversation Moreno finally said he’d had sex with her and wore a condom just so she’d stop badgering him. But then, at the end of that conversation, he was half-apologizing, telling her he was “not a bad man,” and wanted to be her friend, and perhaps they could get to know each other better. Would a guy trying to get away from a woman – trying her placate her after she lied and said he raped her, and was threatening to tell others – want to start a relationship with her? Or would he want to get as far away as possible from her? To me, that made him sound like a guy who felt at once guilty and confused about the definition of consensual sex.
But hey, I wasn’t there when the conversation was played in the courtroom. I only read the transcript. One of the things this trial taught us is how differently the same bare words can be interpreted. As the New York Times reported, a turning point for one juror was when a court stenographer re-read the alleged victim’s testimony. “When her testimony was read back without her in the mix, it was much easier for us to see what she said,” the juror told the Times. “And it sounded like a construct from the prosecution, which did not prove beyond any kind of reasonable doubt that there was a rape.”
There’s one other thing about this trial that always bothered me, and this is that when it came to the woman’s drunkenness, the defense tried to have it both ways. They pointed out the many things about that night she couldn’t remember , suggesting that her memory wasn’t good enough to trust her account of a rape. But they also said she was sober enough to walk up the stairs to her apartment , and could throw back a lot of drinks without passing out . Which means….what? That she could have agreed to sex if there had been any, which there wasn’t? Legally, this tactic may make total sense – defending your client from two angles even if, taken together, those two angles contradict each other. But such an approach leaves those of us on the outside wondering how much of the truth was uncovered during this trial.