Sex Crimes Prosecutor Discusses Strauss-Kahn Case

Originally published on July 1, 2011 5:07 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Kristina Korobov is with the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. The group trains prosecutors in trying sexual violence cases, and she's concerned about the broader effects of today's news.

KRISTINA KOROBOV: The feeling that we get is, dear God, is my jury now going to be thinking about some famous case where someone supposedly made something up and not focusing on the facts of my case.

BLOCK: One inconsistency that the prosecutors are detailing has to do with what the alleged victim told investigators about what she did immediately after the alleged crime. And now, according to court documents, she actually cleaned another room, then went back and cleaned Dominique Strauss-Kahn's room after he left. That's different from what she had originally told them. How key are those first few moments or hours after an alleged attack?

KOROBOV: Let me say this, that I think people have an expectation of how a victim is going to respond after a sexual assault has occurred, and we know that a delay in disclosure is normal, while a person is trying to process what exactly happened to them. It is not the norm that a person will immediately contact law enforcement. Usually, there's a thought of what do I do, who do I turn to?

BLOCK: How about changes in stories, inconsistencies that detail description of what happened afterward might change substantially? Do you see that a lot?

KOROBOV: No. We never as human beings tell the same story exactly the same way every single time, and it depends largely on the questioner and how comfortable a person feels in disclosing information to them. Substantial changes, though, most prosecutors would say that's not typical that you would see substantial changes. But again, it does depend on the questioner and it depends on trauma.

BLOCK: One thing that prosecutors are saying now is that the alleged victim admitted lying about being gang-raped in her native country, in Guinea, in the past. Being a sexual violence case like this one is, would that be especially damaging because it's so germane to the accusation?

KOROBOV: In sexual violence cases, there have been specific exceptions carved out within the rules of evidence in many states relating to what's called a demonstrably false accusation, where there's evidence out there that a victim has either made a prior false accusation or has lied about a rape. That's something that a jury is entitled to hear, and the belief is and it's certainly a fair belief that that's devastating.

BLOCK: But would there be any number of other cases of misrepresentation, lying, deceit in the past that would not be admissible, that a judge would say you cannot introduce that, the jury cannot hear that?

KOROBOV: But a witness can come in and testify that they believe the victim is an untruthful person or that they believe the victim has a reputation for dishonesty within the community. And that would go for a defendant, too. We don't get to come in and talk about, oh, three years ago, the defendant lied about whether he colored his hair.

BLOCK: One other question on what would be admissible in court. There are other women who have come forward to report alleged sexual violence by Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Would that testimony be allowed in court?

KOROBOV: It would be allowed in court depending on the defense that's raised. If a defendant claims that the conduct in question was consensual, then on any number of rules, the evidence would then be admissible. And New York does in fact has specific rules that allow for prior bad acts evidence, but it goes through a rather rigorous test by the judge to determine is it really related to this case or is it so far afield or so dissimilar to the events in question that we don't want to prejudice the defendant unfairly.

BLOCK: Is there a concern for you as a prosecutor, as a former prosecutor, that other women looking at this case may now be fearful, may not come forward to report crimes of sexual violence?

KOROBOV: My concern is that women will look at cases like this and say no one will believe me because in the back of people's mind is always going to be this notion that women make this stuff up, and that actually becomes a defense rather than looking at the individual facts and circumstances of the case.

BLOCK: Kristina Korobov, thanks very much.

KOROBOV: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.