US supreme court won't stop Alabama's first same-sex marriages

"Same-sex couples in Alabama were flocking to the state’s courthouses, where some were able to apply for marriage licenses while others were turned away by probate judges refusing to follow a higher court’s ruling to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage.

...

Richard Levy, a constitutional law professor at the University of Kansas, told The Guardian that it will likely be some time before all probate judges have to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Colleges undercounting sexual assault, study finds

"Universities and colleges undercount sexual assaults on campus, a new study concluded this week.

The researcher examined the numbers universities reported before, during, and after federal audits of their compliance with the Clery Act, a law that requires universities to make public the number of sexual assaults reported on campus.

While under federal examination, schools reported 44% higher assault numbers than they did in previous years. Once federal scrutiny was lifted, universities’ sexual assault figures dropped back to pre-audit levels. 

...

Confusion About College Sexual Assault

"The exact size of the campus sexual assault problem remains unclear. The commonly cited statistic that one in five women who attend college is assaulted before she graduates — repeated by the White House — comes from a flawed 2007 study based on undergraduates at just two unnamed public universities. That figure often shocks, yet there is no reliable alternative estimate. Under the federal Clery Act universities are required to publish data on campus crime, but activists have long suspected that administrators underreport sex crimes.

Professor: Amanda Knox trial shows problems with comparing legal systems

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — When American Amanda Knox was prosecuted for allegedly murdering her roommate in Italy, the trial grabbed sensational headlines on a nightly basis. Both her conviction and eventual acquittal in 2011 drew criticism from the public, who followed the trial and verdict without knowledge of the Italian criminal justice system and assumed American legal traditions applied, a University of Kansas professor has written.

John W. Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, has authored a journal article examining the Knox trial and the consternation it caused, both in America and Italy, and pointing out that there were two major problems — translational and transplantational — in most criticisms of the case.

“If someone is going to offer broad criticisms of an entire legal and criminal justice system, they ought to at least have an understanding of the culture of the country and its legal system,” Head said. “I doubt that was the case with most of the people who were offering the loudest criticisms in the Amanda Knox trial.”

Head was living and working in Trento, Italy, in 2009 on a Fulbright Fellowship when the Knox trial was being conducted. In Italy, as in the U.S., it garnered sensationalist coverage in the media every day for weeks. A specialist in comparative law, Head was fascinated by the trial.

“While I was in Italy, I was working on a comparative law course book. One of the angles I was working on was comparing criminal procedures in Europe, the United States and China. So this case and all the attention it was getting really grabbed my interest,” Head said.

Knox and her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, were accused of murdering Knox’s British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007. She was convicted in late 2009 but was granted a retrial in 2011 and was eventually found not guilty and returned to the U.S. The original verdict was widely seen as flawed, especially in the United States. The first problem with most of the criticism, Head argues, was translational in character, in the sense that many observers are not able to “translate” their own expectations of criminal procedure into a foreign cultural setting.

The complaint was often made, for instance, that the jury in the Amanda Knox trial was not sequestered. What people failed to understand was that Italian juries are rarely sequestered as they are in the States. And instead of 12 jurors of the defendant’s peers, the Italian system employs three judges and six “lay assessors of facts,” Head said. The latter are allowed to consult with the former for a number of reasons, including offsetting any potential prejudice they may have from exposure to the media.

Another fundamental difference is that in European systems, the societal expectation if someone is found guilty is to decide what the criminal justice system can do to mend the tear in the fabric of society and reintegrate the person back into that society. That concept is all but forgotten in America, Head said. Those differences failed to translate to an understandable reality for most American critics, he added.

Those complications contribute to a second problem, transplantational misunderstandings. While it is true that Italian, European and many other justice systems around the world have been “Americanized” to a certain extent over the last three decades, it is difficult to pick and choose which aspects of a legal system to “transplant” or impart into another. A prime example of that problem was an aggressive prosecutor in the first trial who was similar to what one would see in American courts.

“The rest of the system was not ready for that sort of aggressiveness,” Head said. “And many thought the other side — that is, the Amanda Knox side of the trial — was not ready for that, especially without an equally aggressive defense.”

Those problems and misunderstandings, when coupled with a changing society, can pose significant and unprecedented challenges for legal systems, such as the Italian criminal justice system. Growing immigration and multinationalism can stand at odds with nationalist and traditional understandings, Head said. While the tradition may be to re-integrate someone into society after committing a crime, people from other parts of the world may not want to be re-integrated.

“That, I think, throws questions on the tried and true system of criminal procedure and what the process will be 10, 20 years from now when things seem to be changing so quickly,” Head said.

On top of all that, the intense media scrutiny in multiple countries placed a strain on the legal system as well, he added. This also made the trial troubling

Head’s article was published in a “Festschrift,” or special journal published in celebration of the 70th birthday of Feridun Yenisey, a world-renowned legal scholar from Turkey. Yenisey, who has a long association with the KU School of Law, is well-known for his expertise in criminal procedure and in Turkey’s campaign for legal reform. This made an examination of a fascinating criminal procedure case especially appropriate, Head said.

Knox and Sollecito are still in the midst of legal battles concerning the case. Their murder conviction was reinstated, and they are awaiting a final ruling, which is expected as early as next month. In the meantime, Knox lives in Seattle and is working as a writer.

Cases such as the Knox trial are a poignant example of the value of comparative law and even more so the value of cross-cultural understanding.

“I think we simply miss a lot because we don’t pay close enough attention to the underlying cultural differences between legal systems and especially nations,” Head said. “Unfortunately, our response is often inadequate because of that.”

Study Shows When The Feds Leave, Colleges Go Back To Underreporting Sex Assaults

"The number of sexual assaults reported by colleges and universities tends to increase by an average of 44 percent while they're under review by the U.S. Department of Education, according to new research by University of Kansas law professor Corey Rayburn Yung.

However, as soon as federal officials conclude their investigations, Yung found that reports of sexual assault in annual crime statistics tend to drop sharply to pre-audit levels. The same trend was not observed in the statistics for other types of serious crimes on campus."

Surprise! Research shows numerous universities underreport sexual assault

"Today in unsurprising research findings: a recent study published by the American Psychological Association finds that colleges and universities around the country engage in a pattern of serious underreporting of campus sexual assaults, in violation of federal law and despite sizable fines. The study, which analyzed the number of assaults reported by 31 universities nationwide, found that schools reported incidents of sexual violence at a significantly higher rate during audits by the Department of Education — but when the audits ended, reporting rates dropped.

KU law professor’s study shows universities are underreporting sexual assaults on college campuses

"Over the last few months, sexual assault on college campuses has become a hot button issue. According to a new study conducted by University of Kansas law professor, Corey Yung, sexual assaults are underreported by as much as 44 percent.

'I think it speaks to the institutional norms, which is to try and have crime not be a problem. Police survey shows they [officers] tend to disbelieve rape victims more than the public. When the audit's going on, then you have to be more careful,' said Yung.

KU professor’s research suggests on-campus sex assault vastly underreported

"A Kansas University law professor whose previous research showed more than 1 million rape cases went unreported in official U.S. crime statistics has published new research indicating underreporting appears widespread on college campuses as well.

Universities across the country are likely underreporting on-campus sexual assaults by as much as 44 percent, according to Corey Rayburn Yung, whose research was recently published in an article in the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

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