We did not sit through the trial and we only know press accounts of the case, but it has all of the familiar elemnts.
The woman alleged that the three men assaulted her on Jan. 25, 2008, at the Lexington Apartments, 1100 Olive Drive. She told Davis police she was restrained and sexually assaulted repeatedly before she was able to free herself.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin, the prosecutor of the case, issued a statement:
“While we respect the jury’s verdict, we believe the evidence told a different story. The victim had bleeding, rape-related injuries and the defendant Mostafa Noori had the victim’s blood on his clothing. The victim was very brave to come to court and relive this horrific nightmare. The victim was put on trial by the defense and she was re-traumatized. We are satisfied that the truth has been told.”
It seemed all set for the same verdict except for one thing, the victim had told authorities the exact time she was allegedly assaulted. However during the trial, the defense was able to prove that she was on the internet, instant-messaging with a friend, at the time she gave.
Is this a vindication for our system or just another example of an overzealous prosecutor who might have nabbed three more people were it not for the fortuitous discovery of exculpatory evidence?
One of the victims certainly did not talk about victory. All of them felt their names had been dragged through the mud. These young men had bright young futures. One had been accepted to medical school before his arrest but that admission was rescinded when the official learned of the charges. Apparently the jurors made him promise to go back to medical school.
“Hopefully this won’t have an impact on what I’ll do in the future, but I’m paranoid. I’m really paranoid. It’s just so easy to Google someone’s name. Hopefully I’ll get my way back to med school. The jurors made me promise I would.”
Another of them quoted as saying:
“I don’t think I’ll ever get back to where I was. If you Google my name you’ll find things calling me a rapist. You’re not supposed to pre-judge us. But it’s still out there. If I ever apply for a job, if I ever apply for anything, I’m going to assume I didn’t get it because of this.”
Then there is the financial turmoil.
The son of Pakistani immigrant who fled during the Russian invasion to build a family in America and live in peace now has his family left sleepless and financially depleted after a $1 million bail bond and legal fees from the two year court battle.
According to the article Dain Weiner is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Davis.
But we are left with a number of questions that unfortunately we will not get answered. The prosecutor, in this case the District Attorney’s office, has the discretion to prosecute cases as he sees fit. There is very little that can be done to oversee that authority. That office has the power to in a lot of ways ruin people’s lives even when a jury acquits the accused. In this case, the financial and emotional turmoil are tremendous.
There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. To some extent we can argue that despite the high cost to the accused in terms of their lives, the system worked here, but how close would it have been not to have worked. If these guys were truly innocent, had the instant messaging record not exists, would these men have still been convicted? That alone ought to haunt us, because we have seen in a so many cases, possible innocent people behind bars.
Ponder this as well, each time the District Attorney’s office gets a conviction, we get a press release. The local newspapers run the article virtually unedited. That is how the District Attorney controls the flow of information. Guess what, no press release here. So other than the fact that this was high enough profile for some of the press to follow, we would never have known. The District Attorney wants praise when they do the job well, but they are not going to accept responsibility otherwise.
At the end of the day, we should be asking a lot of tough questions here that unfortunately, we will never get the answers to. How powerful is the position of prosecutor that even in exoneration, a person’s life may be altered.
—David M. Greenwald reporting