Keeping “rape” out of the courtroom.

In yesterday’s Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports on a Nebraska judge’s decision to ban the words “rape,” “sexual assault,” “victim,” and “assailant” among others from, well, a sexual assault case. The decision was made because, supposedly, the use of the terms was biased against the defendant. A retaliatory prosecutorial motion to ban the words “sex” and “intercourse” was denied. So those are the only words available to describe the allegedly criminal act, which one can imagine would lead to probing questions such as “did you have ‘sex’ with this woman or did you have ‘sex’ with her?” Ms. Lithwick points out that if calling an act “rape” is prejudicial against the defendant, calling it “sex” is probably prejudicial against the prosecution. In this vein, I propose that the words “plaintiff” and “defendant” be stricken from the courtroom, as they connote aggression and passivity. Instead, the two parties should be referred to as “Party 1” and “Party 2,” with the numbers determined randomly beforehand to prevent bias, or, if that be objectionable, “Tweedledum” and “Tweedledee.”

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Filed under Appellate Law, Criminal Law, Law, Psychology

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