By R. Tamara de Silva
August 24, 2011
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus dismissed the seven-count indictment against the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn on August 23, 2011. The media driven sideshow and one of its most celebrated perp-walks in Gotham came to an anti-climatic close. As the gavel came down, the hopes of millions, and at times it seems, all of the media, to see one of the most privileged and powerful fall to earth were suddenly frustrated.
Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with rape four hours after the alleged incident with Sofitel hotel maid, Nafissalou Diallo. All physical evidence of the interaction, including DNA, was carefully collected and the rape kit immediately dispatched for analysis. Like many in the criminal defense bar, I have been saddened to witness how much justice is so much less for the poorer and disenfranchised because they cannot afford the most aggressive representation when accused, even wrongly of a crime.
Strauss-Kahn's prosecution exposes one those rarer instances in the law when the rights of a plebe are catapulted to the lofty levels of the heightened terror warnings given by Homeland Security. How grand that New York would decide to spare no expense in demanding justice for this poor maid. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. would say, in the most unselfish way, that the case against Strauss-Kahn "was strong...very strong." No one would remember his saying the same thing about another (albeit it not as) high-profile rape case involving two police officers, a mere three months earlier. All this would be admirable were this great prosecutorial zeal not to fizzle out to the degree that it does when faced with low-profile cases.
According to the Department of Justice, there are more than 200,000 un-processed rape kits, many containing DNA evidence that have been sitting on shelves as the physical evidence contained degenerates for years or decades. Processing these rape kits would put thousands of horrid rapists behind bars and free many others wrongly accused and rotting in jails that would be exonerated but remain because the DNA evidence in rape kits are not processed.