Friday, July 13, 2007


[Our language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the criminal sexual assault trial in Nebraska where the judge has prohibited the witnesses and counsel from using the terms "Rape," "Sexual Assault," "Victim," "Attacker," "Assailant," and "Forced."

What's interesting is that this is apparently the second trial where the trial court judge has banned the use of the words and the jury hasn't been told that the words are banned. After the victim testified for thirteen hours at the first trial using the tortured language imposed by the judge, the jury predictably couldn't reach a conclusion (although one does wonder what the verdict form looked like).

This time around, though, Judge Cheuveront has already declared a mistrial, claiming that the pretrial publicity surrounding his order has tainted the jury pool, and he blames the accuser:
"The inescapable conclusion from the petition promoting the rally is that Ms. Bowen and her friends hoped to intimidate this court and interfere with the selection of a fair and impartial jury," Cheuvront wrote in his order released Thursday afternoon. "The gatherings and the speeches ... were widely reported in the media. Unfortunately, this resulted in publicity that would make it virtually impossible to summon additional jurors who would be untainted by the media reports on these activities."

As opposed to a jury tainted by the actual allegations being made about what happened.

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