After weeks of allowing defense lawyers the upper hand, the lawyer for a young woman who claims she was gang-raped by De Anza College baseball players fully exploited the opportunity Friday to have the last word.
In an impassioned hourlong rebuttal before jury deliberations began, lawyer Barbara Spector hammered the defense for blaming her "highly intoxicated," "semi-comatose" client -- who was 17 at the time -- for the alleged assault by eight men at a 2007 San Jose house party.
Claiming the men and their lawyers have dubbed the now-21-year-old woman a "porn star," "crazy," "stupid" and a "whore," Spector said that by blaming her, "They are saying nothing has changed since Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Scarlet Letter' or Jodie Foster in the 'Accused.'
"Does dressing in high heels, jeans and a strapless top justify closing a girl in a room and attacking her" while she is lying in vomit or has vomit in her mouth, she asked rhetorically. "If it does, then it's OK to do it to Madonna and other rock stars, and to just about every high schoolgirl walking around in warm weather."
The two former players still on trial, Christopher Knopf and Kenneth Chadwick, say they are being unfairly blamed by a troubled young woman who wasn't that drunk and who explicitly invited them to have group sex with her. Another six men named in the lawsuit at the start of trial about five weeks ago either settled with the plaintiff for relatively low damages or have had the lawsuit dismissed. A ninth man is facing a default judgment for failing to show up at trial.
Spector told the jury of six men and six women that defense attorneys Jeff Nevin and Bruce Funk tried to trick them Wednesday in closing arguments by challenging irrelevant evidence, leaving out key evidence and setting up and refuting "straw man" arguments that misrepresent the young woman's position.
Take the debate over whether the teen vomited, for instance, Spector said. The defense has made much of the fact that the Sexual Assault Response Team nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center didn't find any vomit on her. Spector pointed out that vomit doesn't show up under the special light the nurse used and that the teen's mother and the soccer girls testified they wiped off the vomit. Even if the vomit on the stained futon was former baseball player Christopher Skinner's, not the teen's, Spector said, she was still lying in vomit while supposedly consenting to group sex.
"No woman, no man, no person would do that," she said.
Spector urged the jury to find Knopf liable for conspiracy, saying he was the first man in the room and entered into an unspoken agreement with teammate Scott Righetti that Righetti would watch the door while Knopf "has sex with this highly intoxicated girl." Spector noted a condom at the scene had both the teen's DNA and Knopf's skin-cell DNA on it.
If the jury agrees Knopf entered into a conspiracy, they would have to hold him liable for every single act that took place both before, during and after he entered the 84-square-foot bedroom, until three female soccer players burst in and brought her to the hospital. Spector asked the jury to order Knopf to pay the young woman $5 million in damages for emotional distress.
Knopf's attorney, Jeff Nevin, argued Wednesday that Knopf was "hypnotized" by the teen, who led him into the room after rubbing up against him and grabbing his genitals. But Spector pointed out that Knopf told detectives he went into the room because he heard Skinner vomiting and was concerned.
"He never said he went in because he was pulled in by his privates," Spector said. "Don't you think he would have told that to the sheriff?"
Nevin also argued Knopf merely masturbated and never raped the teen. But the other defendant, Chadwick, gave conflicting accounts of Knopf's behavior, telling detectives that Knopf put "it" in and pulled "it" out. Under cross-examination during the trial, Chadwick insisted that "it" was Knopf's hips. Any penetration, no matter how slight, is considered rape under civil law.
Spector also attacked Chadwick's credibility, noting he said under oath in his deposition that he never did drugs and was not sexually experienced. Chadwick admitted on the stand that he smoked pot and was extremely intimate with his girlfriend at the time, though they hadn't had intercourse. The plaintiff is seeking $2.5 million from him.
Chadwick was only in the bedroom for about 45 seconds, not enough time to increase the teen's peril, his attorney Bruce Funk argued Wednesday. But Spector contended the jury should find Chadwick liable for negligence because he told detectives he left the room to try to get help because he thought the teen was getting gangbanged, but he didn't follow through.
"He abandoned her," Spector said. "In the time Chadwick left the bedroom, more people assaulted Jane Doe; more people attacked Doe."
The teen was too intoxicated to give legal consent, Spector argued. As for Nevin's argument that the jury would have to believe the men got off sexually on a corpse-like girl with vomit in her mouth to find the teen's story plausible, Spector said, "This is not an act of sexual romance, this is assault."
Spector also tried less successfully to deflect the impact of photographs the defense obtained from the plaintiff's Facebook page, including one that shows her about eight months after the De Anza party serving a shot of liquor to a Nebraska college baseball player from her cleavage. The defendants and one of their experts argued they are evidence she is not suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise she would try to avoid baseball players, drinking and sexually flirtatious behavior.
"Those pictures don't show she was not damaged," Spector said, adding the teen cloistered herself in her mother's room for three months after the alleged assault. Spector said if she hadn't forced herself to try to take control and come out, "I guarantee you counsel would have called her a malingerer."
But Spector said Nevin was absolutely right when he said: "If it weren't for the soccer girls, we wouldn't be here."
"If it weren't for the soccer girls," Spector argued, "the attack would have continued. For how long? Hours? Would she have woken up in the morning?"
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482.