Since his defence strategy, claiming that a 16-year-old rape victim wasn’t “so” drunk, has failed, the lawyer for one of the two Steubenville football players convicted of rape plans to appeal a guilty verdict, and is now claiming that the 16-year-old rapist’s brain wasn’t “developed” enough and his client should not have to be on a sex offenders list for life.
Walter Madison, the attorney for Ma’lik Richmond, went on Piers Morgan Tonight on Tuesday, explaining why he would appeal Sunday’s verdict by 37-year juvenile court judge Thomas Lipps, and especially his sentencing of Richmond to at least one year in a rehabilitation centre and the requirement to register as a sex offender. You can watch the video below, but here’s the key “logic” from Madison:
I don’t believe that a person at 75 years old should have to explain for something they did at 16 when scientific evidence would support your brain isn’t fully developed … when evidence in the case would suggest that you were under the influence.
“We have the right to appeal and that is a right we will be exercising,” said Walter Madison, Richmond’s attorney.
To review: Madison is arguing that a 16-year-old’s brain is not fully functional enough to determine whether raping an unconscious girl is a bad decision. This comes after Madison made news during his last media tour, when he insisted before last week’s rape trial that the Jane Doe victim’s silence and unconsciousness amounted to consent. He said before the trial that the girl “made a decision to excessively drink… and leave with the boys,” and that an Instagram photo of the girl being dragged by the then-suspects “doesn’t suggest that a person is substantially impaired.” The defence team for Richmond and Trent Mays then went on to argue in court that the girl’s level of drunkenness should determine consent.
Also, as Judge Lipps reminded the perpetrator and his family before delivering the sentencing (which may not include extra time in juvenile detention or a lifetime on an offenders list based on behaviour), if Lipps had decided to try Richmond and Mays as adults, they would have faced first-degree felony charges and much harsher penalties.
And finally, just to be clear: neuroscience says that teenagers have “underdeveloped decision processing centres,” which is why teens take risks like stealing or doing drugs. Though, science doesn’t say that you can blame the rape of an underage, unconscious girl on this kind of poor decision making.
Richmond, according to an interview with ABC News that will air Friday, says that he knew, despite of his brain’s underdeveloped state, that the 16-year-old girl he is now convicted of raping was sick and had vomited that night:
Several witnesses said that once outside, the girl needed to stop in the street because she was sick again. “She throws up on her blouse and takes her blouse off,” Ma’lik said. “And then she asked for something to drink and I gave her my jacket to cover her up.”
And Richmond’s brain, despite what his attorney is arguing, has a developed enough brain to understand the life-long implications of having to register as a sex offender. “My life is over. No one is going to want me now,” Richmond said on Sunday after the sentences were read.
Of course the question now, as the appeals process begins alongside a new grand-jury investigation, is if Richmond can win. The most incriminating texts and disgusting evidence uncovered during the trial focused on Mays’s involvement, and if Madison is sincere about appealing he will have to combat the eyewitness account of one Evan Westlake, who testified —twice — that he saw Richmond penetrate the victim with his fingers, on a couch, while she was unconscious and unresponsive.
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