Monday, July 4, 2011

Banon Will Bring Charges

Tristane Banon will file attempted rape charges against DSK. Now the French will have an opportunity to see how their justice system handles such allegations against a high-profile figure. Good luck at sticking to the facts, not jumping to conclusions, avoiding leaks from attorneys and manipulation by press flacks, and at refraining from publishing damaging but unverified information about the accuser.


Mitch Guthman said...

I don’t know anything about the French legal system and I am curious about certain things. I hope that my questions about Tristane Banon’s case or about the French courts will not be misunderstood.

1. Statute of limitations: Is there no maximum time limit after an event beyond which bringing a tort action (or whatever lawsuits on civil wrongs are called in French) would be prohibited? In the common law countries, lawsuits must be filed within a fairly short period of time from when the events took place so that memories will be fresh and the defendant will have the opportunity to gather up and preserve evidence that might otherwise be lost or destroyed over time. In most American states, Canada and the United Kingdom, an action for assault such as this would have to be brought within three years and, in many jurisdictions, within one year. I believe that the incident with DSK took place in 2002.

Do the French have no systemic concerns about the unfairness of allowing lawsuits to be brought long at a time when memories may have faded, there may be serious difficulty in locating witness or evidence, or where the defendant or a third-party may have (routinely and innocently) disposed of important records?

2. Character evidence: I have a question about the admissibility of character evidence. Generally speaking, it is not permitted in American law to offer evidence that a defendant is a person of bad character and so he probably did the bad act charged because it was in his character to do it. That is to say, it is generally forbidden to determine what a person did on a particular occasion by evidence that he has the disposition that would incline him towards the doing of that act. (This is called the impermissible inference of “character to conduct” also known as “the propensity rule”).

But in this French court would it be possible, for example, that Tristane Banon might offer evidence of past sexual misconduct by DSK (i.e., attempts to rape other women or actual rapes) to prove that he exactly the sort of lecherous bastard who would (and therefore probably did) try to rape her?

Are there any restrictions on the type of evidence that DSK may offer to cast doubt on Tristane Banon’s version of events?

Does anybody know the answers to these questions or else where the answers can be found?

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Statute of limitations for this charge is 10 years in France. The juge d'instruction can consider character and past behavior in deciding whether to refer the case to a cour d'assises for trial.