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Policing and its impact on victims

The show Unbelievable, the mini-series detailing the true stories of a serial rapist, opens by presenting the sexual assault of the first victim, Marie Adler in rural Washington. Marie Adler was addressed by two male detectives, who first speak to her in a contradictory and repetitive manner. They collect evidence from the crime scene without Marie’s help and make her recount her statement multiple times there before taking her to the hospital. When inquiring about Marie, Detective Parker is told by her old foster mother essentially to not believe her, who states she seeks attention and has a troubled past. It is this attack on Marie’s credibility which acts as a catalyst for the detectives to abruptly and completely not believe her. After this conversation, the aggressive tone of the detectives is only amplified and Marie is pressured into saying she was lying.

This depiction of the two male detectives is foiled by the characters of the two female detectives. When the next victim, Amber, is raped in Colorado, Detective Duvall has a procedure she follows and explains to the victim, highlighting the discrepancies between her investigation and the male detectives’. Her investigation includes swabbing the face of the victim, walking her back through the crime scene, speaking to her in private etc. She is diligent about crime scene collection and making sure everything is done to collect as much evidence as possible within a timeframe that it is freshest. This discrepancy of the amount and quality of evidence collected is especially disheartening in the end, when the rapist reveals the most mistakes he made (in terms of leaving traces of DNA, etc.) occurred in Washington. Eventually, Detective Duvall makes a connection with a rape in another jurisdiction investigated by Detecive Rasmussen, and the two females move forward invesitgating together. 

After the decision to fully merge their investigations, Detective Rasmussen says to Detective Duvall “You’re gonna move over to my joint. It’s no offense but we’ve got better toys. We’re gonna bring in the FBI. We’re gonna bring in the CBI. We’re gonna exploit every goddamn resource available to us” (ep. 3). It is this quote that brought my attention to look at how the film portrays the gap between training, resources, and experience between the two pairs of detectives. Not only are the female detectives aware of various resources, seek them out, and employ them, the audience can recognize their specialization as a part of sex crime investigations. With Detective Duvall, her experience (even though she is less experienced out of the two) is implied in her familiarity with the nurses who examine victims, and describes them as being great at their jobs.  

The depiction of resources, experience, and specialized investigations is juxtaposed through cuts of scenes between them and the detectives of Marie Adler’s case. The visual imagery of the female pair’s department shows its breath of resources and specialization: the detectives have their own workspace, a detailed crime lab, available personal, and advanced technology. This is contrasted by the department of the male detectives. They are not specialized in sex crimes investigations and seem to lack in resources in terms of both technology and forensics. It is this juxtaposition though that is exacerbated by the male detectives conduct, which makes them individually responsible for various injustices.

It is the male detectives lack of their own self-awareness of their lack of experience coupled with their pride/ego which make them completely fail at their investigation. Rather than recognizing their own lack of experience in sex crimes and thus actively defining how they recognize rape through Marie, they instead deconstruct her story inaccurately based on their predispositions. Another Detective from a different district, Kirkland, calls this pair after a tip to collaborate based on the similar evidence of their two rapes. Instead of reopening the case and reevaluating their mistake, Detective Parker instead shuts him down by saying it was fabricated. An irony lies in the fact the very details and consistencies they found peculiar enough to disbelieve Marie’s story are the very details which form this connection. This shows Detective Parker’s inability to critically think about the investigation and his willingness to follow the misinformation. Unlike the female detectives who were willing to compare their cases, Detective Parker is not willing to look for evidence to corroborate Marie’s story and get justice for her. He only seeks to falsify it. In the end, it is his Hubris which ultimately causes the investigation to fail. However instead of causing their own downfall, it causes Marie’s. Not only does she not gain justice, they have the audacity to charge her with a crime of false reporting and never apologize. 

Alongside other things we have read in class, I find myself comparing these interpretations to George Orwell’s piece “The Courthouse Ring” and To Kill a Mockingbird. In a sense, I think a connection can be drawn between Tom Robinson and Marie Adler in an opposing yet parallel sense. Tom is innocent being charged with commiting sexual assault because of racial bias towards him. Marie is a sexual assault victim whose perpetrator won’t be prosecuted because of police bias towards her. Tom does not receive justice because of racism of the jurors and the sheriff; Marie does not receive justice because of the bias and misconceptions of the detectives’ and the stepmother’s notions about rape.

I also think it can be interesting to compare Marie Adler with Mayella Ewell, and what a comparison of someone lying and telling the truth about sexual assault can show about the treatment of female complainants. Orwell cites a scholar who critques Atticus’ goal “to expliot a virtual catalog of misconceptions and fallacies about rape, each one calculuated to heighten mistrust of the female complaintant” (TNY). Orwell argues that Atticus asserts Mayella “was so starved for sex that she spent an entire year scheming for a way to make it happen” which is “to swap one set of priveldges for another” (TNY). Orwell demonstrates that while it was appropriate to defend Tom, the construction of a defense based on misconceptions surronding what rape and feminity should look like harms actual victims. For Atticus, he believes Mayella should have been hit on the opposite side of her face and employs the ” ‘she wanted it’ defense” (TNY). For the male detectives and Marie’s step mother, details of the shoelace and knife seem unlikely. Moreover, her emotional response is not what they would anticipate it to be and believe it is a ploy for attention. Both show that the need to deconstruct misconceptions about how sexual assault is shown and reacted to. Without this change, conflations of lying with victimhood can continue occuring, harming true victims as they report crimes committed against their bodies.

Paulina and Schubert

In “The Death and the Maiden,” Paulina takes it upon herself and Gerado to try Roberto in a household trial. The goal of this trial is justice and closure for Paulina, who seeks to get Roberto to confess to his crimes. Yet, the trial is unique in that it is occurring privately rather than publicly, making me question how this distinction impacts the effect it has on Paulina. One way I think we can see how it impacted her is through the symbolism of Schubert’s orquestra. In the end, I believe we can see that Paulina does receive some justice and/or closure (I’m not sure they are the same and how to draw the line between them in this instance) for the crimes committed against her.

While she was trying Roberto, she explained how she could not listen to Schubert’s quartet because it was played by Roberto while she was raped. Paulina says. “And now, I’ll be able to listen to my Schubert again.” (21). This hope of Paulina’s after trying Roberto becomes true. In the last scene, Paulina and Gerado are at a concert hall to hear the orquestra of Death and the Maiden. This action is symbolic and I read it as her receiving some sort of feeling of closure/justice as she now has the power to listen to Schubert again, a power taken by Roberto predating his trial. Yet, during the concert it is clear that there is still a gap in her satisfaction of the trial’s result: “Paulina does not applaud” unlike the rest of the audience (66). This makes me wonder what would it have taken for her to clap, which to me would have signified her feelings of complete and total justice/closure. Would it have been for Roberto’s crimes and name to be public? Would it have been for him to be punished under law? Or perhaps, is this as far as justice can reach for Paulina, and Roberto’s crimes will always slightly stain her appreciation for Schubert?

Eichmann’s punishment and justice

Reading “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” I immediately found myself wondering what the punishment for Eichmann would be since it is clear he is presumed to be, and is in fact, guilty of these crimes. As I continued reading about these crimes, I began to feel as if there is no punishment fit to his crimes, that no individual can ever receive such a severe punishment for suffering caused against an entire group of people. Ardent addresses these concerns. Some critics against the death penalty state, “The most common arguement was that Eichmann’s deeds defied the possiblity of human punshiment” (250). Others who attempted to address this gap between the severity of the crimes committed and the absence of an equivalent punishment propose more creative punishments such as “Eichmann should have spent the rest of his life at hard labor … (250). However, I feel this would not be fitting as it implies that law has the capability of closing the gap between justice and the crimes committed through various punishments, which I don’t believe is not possible in the case of Eichmann. 

Ardent also addresses those who called this punishment, “unimaginative,” which caught my eye reading because it is synonymous to banal, the essence, Ardent argues, of Eichmann’s evil. Ardent herself does not believe this is a reason to not inflict the death penalty (in her ideal version of the trial in her epilogue, she states he “must hang” (279)). In this framing, I do not think Ardent criticizes the punishment, but rather the trial and audience which failed to explore alternative manners of conduct in the courtroom, such as questioning Eichmann’s testimony of his lack or guilt, lack of hate, and lack of agency in his crimes. Reading this part of the book in particular, it seemed that critics looked for alternative punishments to close this gap between his crime and punishment, when Ardent perhaps wants them to embody this alternative approach to looking at things in trial and future for different ways of measuring justice. As a reader, it seems Ardent wants me to look at the development of the law different going forward, in manners such as the creation of “an international penal law” (273) reckoning with the fact that justice for the victims through punishment of the criminal may not ever be possible in the aftermath WW2 and could occur again.

Does the declaration declare more than just independence?

In Derrida’s “Declarations of Independence,” he discusses on what basis the signature of the DOI becomes a legitimate manner to both express and in this expression, enact independence. I think his process of declaration can also be applied to the rights stated in the DOI, which Armitage implies in “The Declaration of Independence and International Law,” had yet to be formally recognized by an established government even though they had little bearing on the act of gaining independence.
Derrida addresses the rights stated in the DOI and argues that it is one reason which compelled the signers to declare independence. He writes, “… they should declare the causes which impel them to separation: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable Rights …(Derrida 11),” specifically of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (DOI),” which are infringed upon. While these may be “self-evident,” it wasn’t to Britain at the time, aligning these rights alongside independence; although the states “are” already independent, it is not till the declaration of this independence that it becomes true – the same can be said about these rights. The signature grants itself recognition of these rights which it intrinsically has but is not recognized, and furthermore is more legitimate in its justification to sign because it has them and recognizes them by creating a state that does so upon signing.
However, as Armitage points out, this assertion was “strictly subordinate (44),” as one of many justifications for separation, leading to the question its presence. Because these rights are new in terms of their formal recognition (distinct from and not yet, legally protected) it can be assumed as Armitage asserts that their presence is for future use. For a government looking to eventually protect these “self-evident rights” these rights must be evident since the moment of formation, making their appearance important in the DOI. Given this, the signers had to call on a higher power than the British Crown to grant these rights legitimacy in the declaration, stating “the Creator” has endowed them (DOI). This section of the DOI therefore links these rights with God as a manner to unify and appeal to common beliefs, although this intertwinement may later seem contradictory when granting these rights legal protection in what will be a secular state.