We have the uneasy feeling that the William Kennedy Smith rape trial which opened this week in Florida will be a tawdry spectacle that ends as an exercise in futility.
Were it not for the prominence of the individual on trial, the case would rate only brief stories in the local newspapers. But because of Smith's prominence, the trial no doubt will go down as a landmark case in the phenomenon called "date rape" -- a term meaning the sexual assault of a woman by a man she has willingly accompanied as opposed to an unknown assailant.
Before the trial got under way, Judge Mary E. Lupo expressly ruled out the admission of any testimony about the woman's past as well as Smith's past. It matters not, said Judge Lupo, whether the woman may have led a promiscuous life, and likewise it matters not whether Smith may have been sexually aggressive with other women. The jury may only hear evidence relating to what happened on the beach on a single night last spring at the Kennedy vacation compound in West Palm Beach.