Thursday, March 26, 2009

The leading men's site chimes in on the 'Nicole' recantation in the Philippines

As reported on Glenn Sacks' blog:

Filipino Woman Recants Rape Claim Against U.S. Serviceman

March 26th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Perhaps Pierce can help me with this one. In this article, a high-profile case in the Philippines has just been turned on its head (Yahoo, 3/18/09). Three years ago, U.S. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was convicted of raping a Filipino woman. She claimed, and apparently testified, that the two of them were dancing at a club on Subic Bay Naval Base went out to his van and, while she was passed out, he had sex with her. Smith has always maintained the sex was consensual. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

On Tuesday, March 17, the woman submitted a five-page affidavit to the appellate court saying that she doubts her own version of events. She says the two may have just gotten carried away and, apparently, her behavior was such that Smith could have interpreted it as consent. She has also fired her attorney, moved to the United States and apparently stopped talking.

What I hope Pierce can help me with is the statement by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez who said that the woman's affidavit "may not be admitted as new evidence because it should have been introduced during the 2006 trial." Given that the affidavit apparently didn't exist until recently and no court knew of its existence until Tuesday March 17, 2009, how would it have been possible to introduce it into evidence three years ago?

It seems clear to me that with such ambiguous evidence by the complaining witness, Smith could never have been convicted, and since no amount of due diligence by the defense could have turned up an affidavit that didn't exist, he should at least get a new trial.

I suppose we and he will find out in due course.

Since Robert asked me for my opinion, here is the comment I left beneath his post -- I agree with him completely:

Robert, thanks for highlighting this case -- I am watching this closely and likely will be submitting something for your review as soon as we find out what the appellate does with this affidavit.

You are exactly correct that the recantation evidence should not be dismissed out of hand due to the fact that it wasn't introduced into evidence at the trial in 2006. It didn't exist in 2006. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez's logic would only reward false accusers whose prevarications at trial have their intended effect of convicting innocent men. Such a view does not comport with any civilized notions of justice; civilized courts do not countenance keeping men in prison when it turns out they were convicted based on a lie. Recantations generally are looked upon with a jaundiced eye due to the ease with which they can overturn a carefully conducted trial, but where a recantation is found to be credible, and where it would have mandated a different result at trial, courts do toss out convictions. And Governors also intercede and pardon men based on recantations. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez's sentiments are barbaric in their implications.

I can't recall being so frustrated over any other possible false rape case, because the entire public discourse in the Philippines has been about everything but the possible injustice to a man sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for an alleged acquaintance rape he likely did not commit. Sadly the entire issue has been politicized to the point where Cpl. Smith is just an afterthought, and his continued imprisonment is seen to represent a "greater truth" far more important than whether he actually raped the accuser. His conviction has come to represent the frustration of the people over the US-Philippines "Visiting Forces Agreement." Many are also concerned that upsetting the rape conviction could have the possible "effect" of discouraging actual rape victims from reporting their victimization.

What is lost in all these debates is whether an innocent man will serve out essentially the rest of his life for a crime he did not commit.

The recantation needs to be examined seriously, and if, after fair consideration, it casts reasonable doubt on the guilt of this young man (and I agree with you, Robert -- it certainly appear that it does), then justice dictates that he be freed. But it is most unjust to reject the recantation out of hand simply due to a belief that this young man's conviction advances some political agenda.

I have written letters of protest to church leaders and a prominent Philippines woman's group who have been quoted as expressing concern about the effect of the recantation on women but not about whether the recantation is true. I hope the Obama administration will involve itlself in this atrocity.