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Wednesday, February 14, 2007 

In Honor of Valentine's Day

I occasionally like to post law-related stories on here that have sort of a sick and twisted aspect to them. Long time Eminent Domain readers will remember my series of posts about the undercover cops in Pasco County busting strippers for giving a little "extra effort," if you get what I'm saying. I ran into this sordid little tale the other day. An Irvine cop ejaculates on a motorist but escapes criminal liability. Get ready for a roller coaster ride...
When the case went to trial, however, defense attorney Al Stokke argued that Park wasn't responsible for making sticky all over the woman's sweater. He insisted that she made the married patrolman make the mess-after all, she was on her way home from work as a dancer at Captain Cream Cabaret.

"She got what she wanted," said Stokke. "She's an overtly sexual person."
Two observations. One, Captain Cream Cabaret is a great name for a club. I love alliteration. Two, Stokke, the defense attorney, is a real piece of work. To prove that I'm not just posting this for shock value, I'm going to give some analysis about his defense strategy. But first, here's what the state has to say...
Veteran sex crimes prosecutor Shaddi Kamiabipour-who'd called Park "a predator" during the nine-day trial-said she was disappointed with the verdicts. She also dismissed Stokke's contention that the Orange County District Attorney's office had overcharged the case. At stake, Kamiabipour said, was the principle that no one—not even a horny cop who'd once won honors for community service-is above the law.

"Park didn't pick a housewife or a 17-year-old girl," Kamiabipour said in her closing argument. "He picked a stripper. He picked the perfect victim."
This can be a major problem in a criminal trial. In the eyes of many people (jurors), stripping is not a highly regarded profession. A social stigma like that follows you all the way into the court room. The same thing happens with people who have committed crimes in the past. It's hard for juries to not have their perceptions colored by these facts.

Now for the defense...
It wasn't a surprise that Stokke put the woman and her part-time occupation on trial. In his opening argument, he made it The Good Cop versus The Slutty Stripper. He pointed out that she'd once had a violent fight with a boyfriend in San Diego. He mocked her inability to keep a driver's license. He accused her of purposefully "weakening" Park so that he became "a man," not a cop during the traffic stop. He called her a liar angling for easy lawsuit cash. He called her a whore without saying the word.

"You dance around a pole, don't you?" Stokke asked.

Superior Court Judge William Evans ruled the question irrelevant.

Stokke saw he was scoring points with the jury.

"Do you place a pole between your legs and go up and down?" he asked.

"No," said Lucy before the judge interrupted.

"You do the dancing to get men to do what you what them to do," said Stokke. "And the same thing happened out there on that highway [in Laguna Beach]. You wanted [Park] to take some sex!"

Lucy said, "No sir," the sex wasn't consensual. Stokke-usually a mellow fellow with a nasally, monotone voice-gripped his fists, stood upright, clenched his jaws and then thundered, "You had a buzz on [that night], didn't you?"
Emphasis added. Who talks like that? Anyway, you can see the strategy here, right? Tar and feather the victim. Make her look as bad as the jurors are imagining that she is. And it works. The rest of the article contains all of the background information about the incident. It's worth a read.

Stories like this do tend to get people jaded about the justice system. At least that was my response to it. Based on what I've read in the article (and I admit that it's an incomplete accounting of the evidence), I think that this was a horrible decision by the jury. But that's the system we've got. It's a human-designed system with humans at the switch in every step. Bias will leak into it.

My original title for this post was "Talk about a Sticky Situation" but I felt that was going too far.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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