District Court

The first article is “1 Accuser recants, 2d alters story in rape case” from Thursday, August 21st’s edition of The Boston Globe. Jeffery D. Whitham of Oxford, Maine, a worker at the Marshfield Fair carnival, was accused of rape by two girls, ages 13 and 14. Prosecutors claim the girls have since changed their testimony. In the initial report, the girls both stated that Whitham had raped them, then chased and assaulted them. The older girl has since admitted that the sex was consensual, and both girls have taken back claims that Whitham chased them.

A judge denied the prosecutor’s request to get the defendant’s $150,000 bail reduced at a hearing in Plymouth District Court. Judge Ronald F. Moynahan explained that Whitham may still be guilty of statutory rape, which carries a life sentence. He also criticized prosecutors for providing incomplete information and continuing to charge the defendant with a capital offense without a “good-faith basis” saying they should either move ahead or drop the charges.

Assistant District Attorney Peter Maguire, however, explained that the case was still changing and that he was not yet ready to drop charges. The defendant’s lawyer plans to appeal the decision in Brockton Superior Court. I do not agree with the outcome of this case. Judge Moynahan should have allowed a reduction in bail. While it is understandable that Moynahan would prefer for the prosecutors to have firm decision to end the case entirely, the investigation, clearly, is not yet complete.

The prosecutors felt there was enough doubt in the validity of the girls’ claims for a reduction in bail, with Maguire even saying “Given the state of the evidence, I don’t feel it’s just to hold the defendant in custody. ” The Assistant District Attorney is obviously concerned that the defendant is treated fairly. This should not, however, automatically indicate that the case should be dropped. I see no reason for Whitham to stay in prison while the attorneys finish their investigation.

It almost seems as though the judge is keeping the bail high, in part, out of anger at the perceived inefficiencies of the prosecutors. The article does not answer the question of why the girls changed their account of the incident. The story could have benefitted from interviews with someone in contact with them and I would have pursued a conversation with one of their friends, family members, or teachers to find an answer. There are also many unanswered questions about Whitham. What was his employer’s reaction and would they have expected this kind of behavior from him?

Does he have a previous criminal record or any history of violence or aggression towards women? To answer these questions I would have interviewed more of his acquaintances. While for the most part, the article is fair, the author does seem to have a slight bias against the judge. The byline “Judge still won’t free carnival worker, 18” sets a clear tone for the story. Language used to describe the decision furthers the image of a harsh and potentially unfair judge by stating that he “browbeat” Maguire and “criticized prosecutors. ” The article could have been improved by a more neutral tone.

Sarah from Law Aspect

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