Contact: Teri Stoddard
College Administrators, Lawmakers Urged to Probe Loss of Presumption of Innocence
WASHINGTON/ December 5 – Following the recent release of the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is calling on college administrators and lawmakers to identify and remove policies and procedures that erode and remove the presumption of innocence for persons accused of sexual assault.
The presumption of innocence has long been viewed as fundamental to our nation’s legal system. But ongoing reports of wrongfully expelled students and persons falsely incarcerated for sexual assault suggest the loss of the presumption is widespread, SAVE says.
1. On college campuses, the Department of Education’s Sexual Assault Directive continues to stir debate. To date, nearly 90 editorials critical of the policy have called for the restoration of due process: http://www.saveservices.org/camp/ded-directive/ded-editorials/
2. A recent Department of Justice funded analysis of DNA samples conducted concluded that one out of 10 rape convictions are wrong: http://forensicpsychologist.blogspot.com/2012/07/groundbreaking-research-one-out-of.html
3. The National Registry of Exonerations reports that over a 25-year period, 203 persons were exonerated who had been wrongfully convicted of sexual assault of an adult. Nine had been handed life sentences for a crime they did not commit: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/exonerations_us_1989_2012_full_report.pdf.
SAVE points to a proposed federal law that would further erode basic due process. S. 1925, which is currently being debated in the Senate, would expand the definition of sexual assault to encompass, “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”
“Over the years, state laws have eliminated the requirement for corroboration of allegations of sexual assault. As a result, men like Brian Banks have been convicted and imprisoned, even though there was no DNA, no witnesses, and no forensic evidence,” notes SAVE spokesman Phillip Kuhn. “That’s a legal and moral travesty that must not be allowed to continue.”
SAVE notes that every false allegation and wrongful conviction erodes the credibility of real victims, and wastes scarce criminal justice resources.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to sexual assault and domestic violence: www.saveservices.org/innocence.