August 7 2014
CASA and the Presumption of Guilt
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) is an attempt to deal with the alleged rape crisis on campus.
The eight senators who produced it—four Democrats, led by Senator Claire McCaskill, and four Republicans—were well-intentioned. But good intentions don’t trump questionable statistics and one-sided investigations of the issues under consideration.
Not all relevant parties had their say at McCaskill’s roundtables leading to the drafting of the bill. Caroline Kitchens, the respected senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, writes:
McCaskill’s roundtables included lots of victim advocates, rape crisis experts, and sundry others who represent victims and purported victims of sexual assault. The legislation was built on their collective wisdom. None of the students who have been falsely accused were included. Neither were any civil-liberties advocates.
The result is a convoluted, one-sided bill that will do little to alleviate the problem of sexual assault. What it will do is burden universities with increased costs and regulations, exacerbate concerns about due process, and further erode the rights of students tried for sex crimes in campus kangaroo courts.
It was important for the legislators to listen to the young women who had suffered sexual violence on campus. But it was as important to hear from civil liberties groups and people who have been falsely accused. But they did not invite these people and the result is a bill that threatens civil liberties of the accused.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth actually read the appendices of the McCaskill bill to learn how the deck already is stacked against the accused. A fourth of colleges do not allow the accused to bring a lawyer to the proceedings against him and a third to not allow a witness for the accused. Furchtgott-Roth continued:
Evidence can be flimsy. In 85% of the schools, no formal rules of evidence apply. Forty-two percent of institutions do not use evidentiary practices such as the state’s rape shield laws. In 56% of cases, names of witnesses are not made available during the hearing, and in 63%, hearsay evidence is allowed.
We are very much for punishing perpetrators of sexual violence against women, but we want to punish only the guilty. This bill doesn’t protect the rights of the accused, some of whom are not guilty. The presumption of guilt permeates this bill. Kitchens continues:
When the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow astutely asked the bill’s sponsors about services and protections offered to the accused, a spokesman for Senator [Marco] Rubio’s office replied, “This bill does not address that issue.”
Rubio’s spokesman further explained that “the victim will have the most authority” in directing sexual-assault investigations. But, as Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson has pointed out, there is no such thing as a “victim” at this stage in the investigation. There is simply an accuser and an accused. The senators’ troubling language suggests they believe that a student who makes an accusation is always a “victim.” The new campus rape bill may be bipartisan, but it’s far from balanced.
Kitchens has also spoken with the mother of a student who was accused of sexual assault and expelled, even though the police did not think there was enough evidence to arrest him. The accuser was subsequently charged with filing a false report. The university has nevertheless refused to reconsider the expulsion.The young man doesn't wish to return to school there, but he would like to have his name cleared. Very interesting email exchanges in this story.