July 17, 2015

TEACH WOMEN NOT TO LIE ABOUT RAPE (CONT’D): When Prosecutors Believe the Unbelievable: A man is finally freed, but that doesn’t mean the system worked.

Three years ago, one of the strangest criminal cases in recent memory began in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I live, when a young woman sent a series of text messages telling her boyfriend that a man had abducted her, followed by a series of texts, allegedly from her captor, taunting her boyfriend with threats of sexual violence. Her story was strange, and the case was fraught with complications from the get-go, but the accused ended up in prison long after the doubts outweighed the evidence.

This story is bizarre, but it’s not all that unusual: Prosecutors can prosecute even the weakest, most clearly flawed cases relentlessly, and innocent people can end up in jail.

This week, after two and a half years in prison, Mark Weiner saw his conviction vacated. It finally ended a saga in which Weiner was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to eight years in jail on charges of abducting a woman with the intent to sexually harm her. . . .

The Albemarle County prosecutor, who is elected to the post, is currently Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford. As part of her prosecution strategy, Weiner’s trial lawyer later said, Lunsford “sought the advice of two respected detectives in the city and the county” to pinpoint where the alleged victim’s text messages had originated. Each cop concluded independently that the texts had been sent from near where Steiniger’s mother lived. Lunsford interviewed the first officer for the first time at the courthouse, just before he was scheduled to testify. He told the prosecutor he’d guess the calls came from Steiniger’s mother’s house, not the abandoned property.

Some prosecutors would call that sort of thing exculpatory information that must legally be turned over to the defense. Lunsford thanked the officer for stopping by and said she would no longer be needing his testimony after all. (This officer would later call the defense attorney and tell him what had transpired.) The second law enforcement officer offered up the same conclusion. He didn’t get to testify, either.

Railroading people on bogus rape charges seems to be a Charlottesville specialty.

UPDATE: “Isn’t Mark Weiner’s experience exactly what Obama seeks to impose on college campuses?” Yes. Believe the women!

InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.