A special prosecutor will be appointed to reopen the Maryville, Mo. case of a 14-year-old girl who claims that she was raped by an older boy. Many observers have felt that the county prosecutor ignored evidence that would have allowed him to build a strong case against the accused. Legal experts told the Associated Press that the new prosecutor could help bring closure to a town divided by the case:
“The idea is really to have a third party who is removed from the process, who can bring the appearance of objectivity and neutrality,” said Richard Reuben, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. “At the end of the day they would look like a prosecutor who is truly independent.”
The new prosecutor’s final decision carries high stakes: It could settle the debate over whether [Nodaway County prosecutor Robert] Rice was right to drop the charges, or validate the accusers’ outrage by pushing the case toward a trial.
Rice filed a motion Thursday for a judge to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, which has gained new attention and an outpouring of responses of social media following a Kansas City Star investigation. The girl’s family also spoke out this summer to Kansas City radio station KCUR. . . .
Anchored by Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville may be best known as a football town, illustrated by the giant “bearcat” paw prints painted on Fourth Street and leading the way to the university’s football stadium. Signs in the windows of local shops and bars support the Bearcats, whose annual game against rival Pittsburg State University is so big it’s played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and dubbed the Fall Classic.
Since the Star’s story was published, the town has been deluged with negative reactions, most of it coming from people on social media who have condemned the town for seemingly abandoning sexual assault victims. The case now is the talk of the town, and locals are anxious for a resolution.
“I have some friends who get together, but since this has been going on, they have to sit and argue their opinions,” said Kyle Ponder, a 22-year-old lifelong Maryville resident. “This is splitting the town in two.”
The girl wrote an essay for xoJane, using her own name, in which she describes what happened to her. She writes that she and a friend met a group of boys in a house, where they convinced her to drink several shots of alcohol. She blacked out, she writes, and woke up in the snow on the steps of her house. Visible injuries as well as a rape kit taken in an emergency room confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted, according to the essay. Later on, her mother lost her job, and their house burned to the ground, the girl writes.
In a widely discussed column, Emily Yoffe argues girls and young women have a responsibility to protect themselves by moderating their drinking:
Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
Alexandra Petri responds to commentators who have suggested the girl may have shared responsibility for what may have happened to her:
So, yes, someone actually started a sentence this way — criminal defense attorney Joseph DiBenedetto, talking on FOX about the Maryville case. “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped,” he says. “But.”
If you are starting a sentence with “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped,” the only safe way to get out of that sentence is to stick a period right there, put down the microphone and walk away. Keep walking. Walk until you reach the ocean. Stare into the waves. Think deeply about your life. Feel remorse. Feel something. Turn around. If you still don’t realize how wrong this is, ask a stranger for her shoes and walk a mile in them. Walk two miles. Do whatever you need to do to realize that news stories contain real people.
One piece of evidence that has been a particular source of controversy is a video of the events recorded using a cellphone. Authorities would later say that the video had been deleted and that a forensics laboratory couldn’t recover it.