It seems the Brits are in a tiz over outrageous comments by Helen Mirren about rape trials.
Dame Helen Mirren was accused by the Solicitor General of making ignorant, absurd and dangerous comments yesterday after speaking out again about rape prosecutions.
Trouble is she's absolutely right.
I would not claim to know how juries are selected in Great Britain, and it may well be totally random, as Solicitor General Vera Baird claims. But, here in the US, where attorneys are very involved in jury selection, it's an absolute fact that your better rape prosecutors try to stack juries with men.
I was somewhat stunned to learn this some years ago, while reading up on the "preppy murder trial." Robert Chambers, who was convicted for the murder of Jennifer Levin, was prosecuted by renowned attorney Linda Fairstein. Fairstein, who specializes is rape prosecutions said, when interviewed, that she would always try to tilt juries in the male direction, because women jurors are less likely to convict rapists. Her statement struck me as so counter-intuitive that it always stuck with me. I did a bit of googling, to check my own memory, and Fairstein is not alone in this assessment.
However, female jurors frequently do not side with the female complainant. Indeed, according to a Newsday article, “The most sympathetic juror a rape victim can hope for… is not a well-dressed, educated working woman, but a stocky, conservative, middle-aged Italian man. The Italian man, the researchers reason, regards women as fragile and in need of defense and will usually side with the accuser” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10). The article also quotes Barbara Eganhauser, a lead sex crimes prosecutor in Westchester County, who believes “women, even young women with contemporary lifestyles and values, often reject another woman’s accusation or rape and sex abuse out of their own fear” (Tyre, 1991, p. 10).
Sad, but true.