Keeping an open mind about the Florida rape case

MIKE ROYKO LhB

December 11, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

MY CONSERVATIVE FRIEND Grump rubbed his forehead wearily. His eyes were puffy and red. He looked almost too tired to lift his martini. So I inquired as to his health.

"I'm fine," he said. "If I appear exhausted, it is because I have spent so many hours in front of the TV, focusing my keen intellect and considerable deductive powers on the testimony in the Florida rape case."

Ah, yes, a fascinating trial. It will be interesting to see which version of that sordid evening the jury believes.

"Which version? Have you followed the testimony?"

Almost every word.

"Then it should be perfectly obvious to you. That rich, pampered Kennedy lout should be taken out and strung up from the nearest tree, the despicable sex fiend."

You are already convinced of his guilt?

"Yes. His story is nothing but a pack of lies."

But he hasn't testified yet.

"Well, when he does, it will be a pack of lies."

How can you be so sure?

"Because I heard the testimony of that tragic young woman who was a victim of the legendary Kennedy lust. An unbridled lust, incidentally, that is not uncommon among liberals. And if you heard that woman's testimony, you wouldn't be asking stupid questions."

But I did hear it.

"Then it should be clear to you. The way she wept and sobbed. The obvious agony she endured in telling the story of the abuse she suffered at the hands of a brute-like Kennedy."

Actually, his name is Smith.

"Yes, but he is a Kennedy, and it is in the genes. Every word, every sob, every tear that woman shed was from the heart and it rang so true."

Well, yes, I concede that her testimony was very emotional, as the pained sobbing of a woman would tend to be. But I did notice a number of odd contradictions and omissions in her testimony.

"Odd? I found nothing at all odd about it."

Didn't you think it strange that she would remember tiny and precise details about that evening, such as the kind of pasta and sauce she had for dinner, how many glasses of wine she had, but was unable to remember when and how her pantyhose were removed, and who removed them? Or that she would remember how she shifted through the gears of her little sporty car on curves as she gave Willie Smith a lift home, but she couldn't recall leaving the Au Bar to visit another bar to have a drink with a male friend?

"Not at all. Perfectly understandable that she would block out the grim details of so terrible an assault."

But she didn't block out all the grim details. She seems to remember some most vividly. So I'm puzzled as to why she can't remember who took off her pantyhose and how they became shredded and why they were found in her car when she left. Incidentally, if she was as traumatized as she says, do you understand why her friends, who came to rescue her, let her drive her own car?

"There you go, a typical male chauvinist pig, eager to believe the worst about this woman, incapable of understanding what a female goes through when abused this way. That's why women are often hesitant to come forth, because of brutish attitudes such as yours. You're always willing to believe the man, aren't you, but never the woman."

That's unfair. I'm trying to keep an open mind, just as I did in that other celebrated case, the Judge Thomas confirmation hearings.

"Ah, Judge Thomas, a fine man, a splendid addition to the Supreme Court. A terrible injustice, subjecting him to the vicious slurs of a woman scorned."

Are you referring to Professor Anita Hill?

"Of course. Obvious as the nose upon your face, especially yours, that Thomas had rejected her and this was her way of getting revenge."

But there was no evidence to that. It was her word against his. And she was very precise and thorough and confident in her testimony.

"Of course she was. If you knew anything about psychology, you would have recognized that she believed her own story, as ridiculous as it was. Yes, a rejected, scorned woman, obsessed by self-delusion."

I'm still not convinced.

"Of course you aren't. That's because you knee-jerk types always believe the woman. Just because the woman is smaller and physically weaker, the man is always at fault."

Wait a minute, you just accused me of always believing the man.

"I did?"

Yes, because I wonder if the woman in Florida might have felt she had been used, then treated coldly, and reacted like a rejected, scorned woman, possibly a victim of delusions.

"See? You're always willing to believe the worst about a woman and take the man's side."

But you just accused me of the opposite.

"Well, that's because you're inconsistent. Being a typical, knee-jerk wishy-washy type, you don't know what you believe."

You may be right. By the way, what did you think of Sen. Ted Kennedy's testimony?

"I missed Kennedy's testimony. My TV lost the signal."

Strange. Mine didn't.

"That's because you didn't put your foot through the screen."

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