Monday, July 25, 2011

Justice? A Quaint Idea in Our Brave New World

DSK's alleged victim, Nafissatou Diallo (I can now use her name, since she has chosen to reveal her identity to the public), appeared for the first time on American television this morning. The quaint idea that guilt or innocence in a criminal case should be decided on the basis of evidence presented in a court of law in accordance with rules of procedure and under the supervision of a judge apparently belongs to another era. In both France and the United States, alleged victims have hired attorneys versed in the ways of the media, who have advised their clients to seek retribution (I don't think the word "justice" can apply without due process of law) in the media. Both lawyers know that their clients stand little chance of prevailing in criminal court: in New York because the witness's integrity is open to challenge, in Paris because the allegation is too old, the only corroborating evidence comes from the account that the alleged victim herself offered to others, and the allegation will probably be reclassified from attempted rape to sexual assault, on which the statute of limitations has run.

So as a matter of law, DSK will probably emerge unscathed, though still subject to civil suits for damages. His reputation is in tatters, but as numerous precedents (Clinton, Spitzer, Vitter, etc.) show, careers can flourish even without reputation. Initially, one might have hoped that the DSK affair would change attitudes in France about sexual harassment and relations between men and women in general, but that may be wishful thinking.

Perhaps the willingness of the alleged victims to publicize their grievances marks a step forward for women: Why should we hide? they may be saying. There is no shame in what (allegedly) happened to us; the shame is that the (alleged) perpetrator may get away with it. And yet, and yet ... the impatience with the inevitably slow process of justice, the procedural obstacles in the way of a full hearing, and the inherent difficulty of proof in this kind of case have driven these women to heed the advice of attorneys whose motives are certainly not unmixed, and this inevitably raises suspicions about the potential for manipulation.

Neither case is over yet, but both have already left a decidedly unpleasant taste. The false immediacy and transparency of television will have drawn yet another veil over already murky details, and in the absence of a trial to impose some kind of order on the facts and accountability on the witnesses, we are now left with a simulacrum of justice in which PoMo theorists will find confirmation of their darkest suspicions. Truth beyond a reasonable doubt has become a myth in which only the credulous believe--an ancestral memory, like the story of Romulus and Remus, or Washington and the cherry tree. Vengeance via media is so much more satisfying, and potentially lucrative.


meshplate said...

Joan Buck, ex-editor at Vogue France, has a piece in Newsweek on why AS puts up with DSK; Buck doesn't really come up with a satisfactory answer other than some version of narcissism and ambition both of which fail to take into account the matter of embarrassment and humiliation. So AS behavior remains enigmatic.

On your post, you rightly point out the inherent difficulty of getting justice as a rape victim (let's assume for the sake of argument that such persons exist). SInce that's the way it is (an alleged perp stands a better chance of getting off than the alleged victim has of getting justice), recourse to parallel justice through the media is to be expected in high profile cases (a situation in which sympathies are going to go to the alleged victim). Is this only a step backwards like you suggest? Well if it's not justice, justice itself isn't just either. Has DSK been ill used? At the very least, he should have been much more prudent. Behaving reckless is, to be redundant, a risky business.

Kevin Elstob said...

I thought the Joan Buck article gave an insightful, thoughtful, and well-constructed article about where the case stands now. I thought the Buck article gathered the main points and gave them in the context of wider implications of the case, not least of which is if a blemished past (for both DSK and Ms Diallo) preclude a fair hearing.

Cincinna said...

A hearing set for Monday in the sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been postponed until Aug. 23.

As to the question of Ms Diallo's interviews with the press, what choice did she really have? DSK's lawyers hired teams of investigators to go to Africa & dig up dirt to destroy her. He has the unlimited resources of his billionaire wife/enabler, ND has none.

When I rethought this case, I kept in mind a few points:
The known history of DSK as a serial sexual predator, the forensic evidence held by the DA that has kept this case going, and motive.

What motive could this immigrant woman have? She suffered general mutilation and repression, poverty and submission in Guinea, escaped and made it to the US, found a good steady job that she loved, and in which by all accounts, was doing well, and was liked & respected. Why would she risk it all for a sexual encounter with a client?
I don't see the motive, and judging from the NYT comments, people, especially women, in NY don't either.
If the case goes to trial, DSK will face a jury sympathetic to her plight.
If I were he, I wouldn't risk it.

Anonymous said...

Cincinna: you assume that DSK is a "serial sexual predator". Tidbits certainly can let us assume he is. But there's no proof. Justice needs proof, not "assumptions". This new date may be related to the prosecution trying to find proof about this "assumption", i.e., other victims - several people told me that one doesn't just assault sexually for the first time at DSK's age so IF ND tells the truth, there may be others.
But take into account ND's lies on her asylum claim that make her an unreliable witness that the defense will dismiss as a serial liar (even keeping in mind that the genital mutilations she suffered would have been enough) and the fact she's rumored to be filing a civil suit and the motive is easy to see: $$$.
I don't necessarily believe it's her motivation but there's enough "reasonable doubt" at this point that DSK wouldn't likely be convicted. It's enough for him to risk it.
Nevertheless if you see DSK as rich and arrogant, a risk-taker, you can certainly imagine he couldn't imagine himself convicted and would take the risk.
All in all, it means one more month that the defense agreed with so they must be reasonably sure that it won't help the prosecution and may force a case dismissal.