The verdict is in for the shocking teenage gang-rape trial in France, and depending on your level of world-weary, rape-trial cynicism, the results are probably going to shock you just as much as they shocked one of the victims' lawyers, who earlier today characterized the four-week-long proceedings as a "judicial shipwreck." Of the 14 men accused of brutally (and daily) gang-raping two women when they were teenagers living on the estates in Fontenay-sous-Bois outside Paris, ten were acquitted and four were handed sentences ranging from three years' suspended sentence to a single year in prison.
According to The Guardian, public reaction to the verdict has, on the whole, wavered somewhere between outraged to cartoon-steam-out-of-ears, red-faced, fist-clenched rage that not a single defendant received the five to seven year sentences (already widely perceived as too lenient) recommended for eight of them by the state prosecutor. The court also determined that only one of the women, Nina, had been raped, and failed to uphold allegations from the other woman, Stephanie. Clothilde Lepetit, the lawyer responsible for the incisive nautical metaphor, further denounced what she described as a poorly handled trial fraught with judicial failures. Another lawyer for the women, Laure Heinich asked (in what we can only imagine was a deflated tone), "What sentence makes sense when one hears that gang-rapists are given a three years suspended sentence?"
The Guardian's Angelique Chrisafis notes that the unsatisfying verdict "has highlighted the problems in historic rape investigations where material evidence is lacking and much rests on the women's word." Lawyers for the women, moreover, said they felt that their clients' testimony had been disrespected during the proceedings, a rape-trial phenomenon we on the other side of the Atlantic have had our fair share of conniption-fit-inducing experiences with.
The great-galloping surprised of a verdict has elicited some choice responses from prominent figures across France, including French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who said that the women probably had grounds for appeal, adding that "gang-rapes" are indeed a shocking, nauseating phenomenon:
Personally, I'm shocked by gang-rapes, by every form of aggression against women and I think we have to create conditions so that the facts are established and those guilty can be effectively identified.
As for the accused, many of them, shock of all shocks, told the French media that they were relieved by the verdicts.
Four guilty in gang-rape trial that shocked France [The Guardian]
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