Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Trial of William Jeffrey Dumas

I'd like to clear up some details about Georgia vs William Jeffrey Dumas, the case involving the alleged multiple rape of a woman with Down syndrome (I call her Jane).
  • You can read the judge's decision (redacted to protect the identity of the alleged victim) here
  •  You can read District Attorney Ballard's appeal (redacted to protect the identity of the alleged victim) of that decision here
Listen, folks, serious trigger warnings apply. I got pretty upset reading these documents. I ate a lot of chocolate, then went back to writing. You have been warned.

Here are a few thoughts, in part based on an email conversation with DA Ballard, who was good enough to answer some questions (he can't talk about evidence). I'd also like to thank Steve Visser of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who sent me some documents and was helpful both over email and with his reporting.

1. A lot of the chatter about the case, especially in the comment thread of my CNN piece and a rape-defender on a list I used to frequent, has been about consent. First, don't read the comments. Second, I read the comments so you have to. Third, the trial was not about consent.

In this case, the defendant denied to the detective that sex had occurred, so that was the basis of the trial, not whether or not it was consensual. In that circumstance, the physical evidence and Jane's testimony proved persuasive to the jury.

2. Judges are supposed to overrule jury verdicts only when the evidence is vastly divergent from the evidence. In this case, the judge said that the evidence was sufficient for the verdict, but overruled anyway. It's not unreasonable to give judges that power, so long as they wield it extremely sparingly. This case, however, doesn't fit the bill.

In his decision, McFadden noted a discrepancy of time with the first attack. However, the victim explained this and, moreover, responded, "He had his hand over my mouth" when the defense asked why she didn't cry out. McFadden, though, found the fact that she didn't make an "outcry" until the next day too strange to believe, and I still find that at the core of the decision. He thought if she had really been raped, she would have said something sooner. I dealt with that in my CNN piece, but say it again - it is a myth that women who are raped act in predictable "correct" ways.

McFadden, also, showed a tell when he criticized the prosecution's decision to make sure they went last and to use emotion to sway the jury. DA Ballard tells me that this is totally normal. He wrote, "The law gives us the right to argue last since we have the burden of proof and it is a rare prosecutor that does otherwise."  But in McFadden's mind, the emotional argument at the end of the trial somehow was unfair, swayed the jury, and resulted in a conviction.

3. I find it interesting the defendant's early argument that this was a false rape claim and that he heard that Jane had accused someone else similarly (to the detective, I believe. The defendant didn't testify in court). But since Dumas couldn't identify when that had happened, he dropped it. Whether or not Dumas is a rapist (I believe he is, but...), it's clear that rapists in general believe they can escape punishment by leaning on the myth of false-rape reporting.

So once again. About 50% of all rapes are not reported. About 3% of all reported rapes are false. Do the math. Stop this myth. I just ran into it again, yesterday, on a Down syndrome "support" list-serv, and perhaps I'll write about that in a few days. People believe false rape is an epidemic on a scale with real rape, whereas they are orders of magnitude apart.

Read the document, ask questions, I'll answer as best I can.






2 comments:

Adelaide Dupont said...

Here are my three forensic questions (these come from the judge's decision):

1. Pierce smoking and the computer room crash. This happened after the loungeroom activity. I am thinking in particular of "(dis)hevelled and distressed". Is that a usual proposition/standard? Or is that what Pierce was thinking?

2. The one about the 2 chairs. What does a bar chair look like and did it take up the same space as the other one? (And is there a given value of "hevelled"?)

3. The one about Dumas and the shirt Prince washed.
(I wonder if there were any evidence on that shirt and did Prince touch/wash it away?)

The whole bathroom action I have to look at again.

One rhetorical question:

"Hand over mouth" - literal or metaphorical? (And where else were Dumas's hands?)

Basements and apartments!

David Perry said...

I do not have the forensic answers and no one involved in the case can tell me at this time. These issues were addressed in trial (I don't have the trial transcripts yet, but am working on it) and persuaded the jury, but yeah.