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Ethics For Dummies: A Recommended Reference For The New York Times the Next Time They Report A Rape Case.

I once attended college with an interesting and very decent guy who wanted to be an attorney. He confided in me once about his biggest ethical concern about being a defense attorney: defending a rapist who he knew to be guilty. It would be far worse for him if he had to defend as many as seveteen – all of whom had their way with the same 11-year-old girl. The recent case of gang-rape that occurred in Cleveland, Texas last fall, would have to be the legal assignment of his nightmares. The Houston Chronicle describes the unconscionable brutality that occurred below.

Seventeen men and boys, including a middle school student and adults in their 20s, have been charged with sexually assaulting Maria’s daughter, a sixth-grader, in a dingy trailer. That number could grow to 28.

(Houston Chronicle, 7 Mar 2011)

So if my old buddy, The Future Lawyer, is out there, and has a law firm, a recent issue of the New York Times goes light on the ethics but offers great tactical advice. They show how to defend 17 accused rapists who all took turns attacking the same 11-year-old girl.

The Future Lawyer opined that he would first have to make the woman appear to have no morals; so that she would have no decent gravamen to call it a rape. This is known colloquially as the “she just wanted it defense.” The New York Times, like the paragon of journalistic integrity that it is, shows how the “she just wanted it defense” is properly executed.

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”

(HT?:New York Times, Ob. Cit.)

So The New York Times has described the victim as the Hoochie Momma Jezebel of the 11-Year-Old Set. She would dress like a 20-year-old. She even hung around with teenage boys. Then, there was the whole riff about her mom. Obviously, if she were more modest and her parents knew their job, none of this would ever have happened.

My old college buddy mentioned another aspect of defending the rapist. Make him look like a pillar of the community – after you’ve painted the victim up to be The Whore of Babylon. This is where my buddy’s hypothetical defense would probably fall apart. There is no making these defendants look like anything other than the iniquitous human beings they are. The New York Times describes the accused rapists below.

Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. A few of the others have criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old.

(New York Times, Ob. Cit.)

So the New York Times reports a crime. However, they demonstrate a horrendous ethical lassitude in how it is reported. The victimized girl was described by the New York Times in manner that conjures up images of women of ill repute, trolling the allies of Santa Monica Boulevard. It almost makes the reader think the New York Times believed she had it coming to her. Here is more description of what the New York Times implies she was asking for.

They first went to the blue house, where she was ordered to disrobe. If she refused, the statement said, she was warned other girls would beat her up and she would never get a ride back home. Soon she was having sex with multiple young men there, the statement said. Someone used a phone to invite four more men, who soon arrived. Not long afterward, the group fled through a back window when they heard a relative of one of the teens arriving at the blue house. The 11-year-old left behind her bra and panties as the group moved to the nearby abandoned trailer, where the assaults continued. As the men had sex with the girl, others used their cell phones to take photographs and video, police said.

(The Houston Chronicle, Ob. Cit.)

To imply that she in any way invited the scene described above defies ethical decency. The journalists at The New York Times have publically defamed an 11-year-old girl, who has been filmed getting raped by 17 different attackers, ranging in age from her near-peers to twenty-seven years old. Thus, we’ll have to give them some remedial instruction.

No, not in journalism; the Times is a lost cause in that particular field of endeavor. I was just hoping to help them practice basic, humane ethics. With that noble goal in mind, I recommend that all writers, editors, secretaries and copy-setters sit themselves down and read Ethics For Dummies. It is, after all, a reference for the rest of us. Maybe it would provide these practitioners of the so-called journalistic profession just enough of a background to report the next brutal gang rape with a modicum of basic decency.

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