Branded across the top of the Supreme Court of the United States is the inscription “Equal Justice Under Law.” This coda of American Jurisprudence has been called into question, however, in the case of Eric Frimpong.
At the bedrock of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. Every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The rules of procedure in our criminal justice system flow from these basic principles, recognizing that “it is better to set ten guilty men free than to convict one innocent man.”
These safeguards failed to protect former [UC-Santa Barbara and future MLS] soccer star Eric Frimpong from being convicted of rape, even though none of his DNA was found on the accuser; only semen from her boyfriend. The young woman, a 19-year-old freshman with a history of alcohol-induced blackouts, had a blood alcohol level between .29 and .34. At .35 you are at an anesthesia level where surgery can be performed.
This case truly makes me sick to my stomach. ESPN magazine has a good article about his cause.
Judge Brian Hill, citing Frimpong’s clean record and “a lot of community support,” delivers his sentence: six years in state prison. As Frimpong is led away, many people in the gallery are crying. Out in the hall, Paul and Loni Monahan stand solemnly while the courtroom empties. Their son, Pat, was Frimpong’s teammate, and the Monahans — a white, middle-class family — had embraced “Frimmer” like a son and a brother. Loni distributes copies of a printed statement: “We will continue to fight for Eric. We will not rest until he is exonerated and the ugly truth of his wrongful prosecution and conviction comes out.” When the leaflets are gone, she leans against a wall, tears flowing. “Eric believed in our system,” she says. “He believed justice would prevail.” Then she straightens. “Before I was sad,” she says. “Now I’m mad.”
Perhaps the most troubling ruling, as far as the defense was concerned, involved bite mark analysis. The prosecution’s forensic expert, Norman Sperber, testified that he couldn’t rule out Frimpong for causing the bite on Jane Doe’s face. But detectives failed to disclose that they had first approached another expert: Raymond Johansen would later testify, outside the jury’s presence, that after preliminary analysis, he told Kies that the bite mark was “vague.” Law enforcement is required to turn over evidence that doesn’t point to the defendant as the suspect; suppressing such evidence is grounds for a mistrial. But Kies failed to file a report of his conversation with Johansen. When questioned by Sanger, the detective stated that while he had indeed approached Johansen first, the dentist had failed to provide any opinion. Kies and senior DA Ronald Zonen both told the court that they had passed over Johansen because he wanted to charge for his services, and Sperber wasn’t charging. But Sperber testified that he always charges for his services, and he did so for this case, too. Judge Hill, who had served 19 years as a Santa Barbara DA prior to sitting on the bench, ruled that Johansen’s testimony was not exculpatory and denied that motion as well.
Six years in state prison. Remember that’s six more years than the Duke players got. Of course, in this case, a black man is accused of raping a white woman with an all white jury.
I urge you to visit the Eric Frimpong Freedom Fund and read his story. And donate. And forward this site onto your friends.
Justice denied is never stopped without the will of the people making it so.