Earlier today I was reading the Lawrence Eagle Tribune and came across an article about a Methuen, Massachusetts man just convicted of one count of Rape. The man, Kenneth Poirier was being tried for a rape that occurred over three years ago. It was alleged that Poirier picked up a woman outside of a Lawrence rooming house and at gunpoint and took her to a wooded area in Methuen where he raped her. His defense was that believing she was a prostitute he picked her up and that all sexual contact between the two was consensual.
An earlier article about this trial reported that the woman did not appear in court to testify claiming that she had medical issues. However, the police had to go out and find her. When they did she was put up in a hotel, fed and clothed. The woman admitted having no recollection as to whether or not she told the police that she was forced into the car at gunpoint. There was no physical evidence corroborating the woman’s claim that she had been raped.
Consent is a defense to allegations of Rape. It is one of two defenses I would expect to see in a case with facts such as this. The other defense would be a denial of engaging in any sexual act. Both defenses seem to fit the newspaper accounts of the crime. For example, where, as here there is no physical evidence suggesting a sexual assault I can see where the defendant would deny any unlawful contact with this woman. Why then would she make these accusations? There are countless reasons, the most common being a prostitution deal gone bad or a failed drug deal. But you have to ask yourself this. If Poirier didn’t rape her and there was no physical evidence corroborating her accusations, why admit to having sex at all?
Sex crimes can be difficult to defend. There can be a tendency on the part of jurors to sympathize with someone making this claim. Even though judges instruct jurors not to let sympathy interfere with their verdict the actions of the complaining witness can elicit emotion and sway jurors. In this case it is also troubling that as the victim became emotional during the trial the judge ordered a recess for her to compose herself. The recess causes pause and immediate reflection on the words and actions of the emotional witness. Some lawyer might even argue that the judge’s decision to break from trial at that time suggested that the judge was sympathetic towards the witness and perhaps believed her. This can be difficult for the defense to overcome, regardless of guilt or innocence.