Friday, May 30, 2008

Man posthumously exonerated of rape and murder -- 86 years too late

News of an alleged rape is always viewed through a gynocentric lens of outrage. The woman or girl purportedly raped is assumed to be a victim. While we pay lip service to the notion that the accused is entitled to his day in court, we typically do not empathize with him as a possible victim of a false rape claim.

It's time we did. We now know that false rape claims are not uncommon, and the potential harm to innocent men stemming from them is enormous. Thus false rape claims should be viewed not through a gynocentric lens but rather as atrocities that only victimize men; atrocities that nobody is talking about, but that need to be stopped.

A recent news story brought a chilling reminder of the potential harm of convicting an innocent man.:

Colin Campbell Ross was hanged 86 years ago after being convicted of the murder and rape of 12-year-old Nell Alma Tirtschke, whose naked body was found in an alley. Ross, who ran a small wine bar near the alley, was found guilty after jurors were told hair samples taken from his house matched those of the dead girl. After two quashed appeals, he was hanged just 115 days after Tirtschke's death. Now research has confirmed the hair was not a match, and found evidence compromising a key prosecution witness. "Let us be an example," said Mr. Ross' niece Betty Everett. "Let's hope it never happens again."