Justice takes a scary turn

Because we are human, our justice system is imperfect.

If you find it difficult to comprehend the case of the woman who reported being raped in 2008 and ended up being charged with making a false report, imagine how frighteningly incomprehensible it must have been for her.

Lynnwood p

olice announced this week that they’ve reopened the rape investigation and are trying to clear the woman’s name — she plead guilty to the false report charge — after a suspected serial rapist was arrested in Colorado.

According to news reports in 2008, the woman, then 18, told police she woke up the morning of Aug. 11 to find a strange man in her apartment. The man sexually assaulted her. When he left, the woman called 911. The woman was evaluated by doctors that day.

Six days later the police reported that the woman confessed to making up the story.

Police said at the time the woman provided a statement that said she hadn’t intended for things to get this far and that the entire incident did not happen. During interviews, detectives noticed inconsistencies in the woman’s story, police said. During the follow-up interviews, the woman confessed the incident didn’t occur.

This week, in explaining why the police didn’t believe the woman, Lynnwood Police Chief Steve Jensen repeated that her story changed and details appeared to be inconsistent. People who know the woman also spoke to detectives and expressed doubts about her story, Jensen said.

It seems reasonable to ask:

How many interviews does it take before a traumatized victim might begin to feel like a suspect?

Are people who have experienced a severe emotional and physical trauma really expected to have a totally consistent story?

Perhaps scariest of all is the information that “People who know the woman also spoke to detectives and expressed doubts about the woman’s story.” And they listened to them? Isn’t that known as hearsay in other parts of our justice system? Do other crime victims require character witnesses?

The Denver Post reported that Colorado detectives found pictures of the Lynnwood victim on a camera belonging to Marc O’Leary, an Army veteran charged in two similar cases in Colorado. O’Leary is charged with 28 counts — including sex assault, kidnapping and burglary in attacks on four Denver area women. Lynnwood police say evidence links him to the 2008 rape.

Lynnwood police Cmdr. Steve Rider told the Denver Post: “We really appreciate Colorado’s work on this case,” he said. “Without them, this would have gone into the annals of time as a false report.”

Too true.

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