Naming An Accuser

by john on April 4, 2003

“Since Kirby Puckett was acquited, should his anonymous accuser be named?” was the question on a radio talk show tonight. Unfortunately my cell phone was without juice so I had no chance to rebut the half dozen or so people who all said, “Yes.”

For those not in the know, Puckett is a Hall of Fame baseball player that played his entire Major League Baseball career for the Minnesota Twins. Many people idolized him for his play and his personality, but as it turns out he could be quite a lout. He’s been through a nasty divorce where he was accused of pointing a gun at his wife’s head (while she was holding a baby), chasing her with a chainsaw and using a circular saw to get to her through a locked door. Apparently he kept a stable of mistresses and drinks like a fish. No doubt he jaywalks too.

In this most public case he had been charged with false imprisonment, fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and fifth-degree assault for an incident where he supposedly dragged a woman into a restaurant bathroom and assaulted her. The case was a classic he-said, she-said case with both sides providing witnesses for their side of their story. The woman (alleged victim or accuser depending on which news source you read) has only been referred to as “KL” during the trial.

The premise behind the question asked on the radio talk show was that since he was a public figure who had his reputation besmirched, apparently incorrectly, should not her name be made public so that she could face a similar gauntlet, presumably in the interest of limiting the number of false accusations that are made and go to trial.

The answer, of course, is a resounding “No.” Here is why. First of all, I completely agree with the thought that there are too many frivolous lawsuits out there and something needs to be done to stop it. In fact one caller even mentioned that pertaining to this trial. But guess what, this was not a lawsuit. This was a criminal trial. There is no question in my mind that if you file a lawsuit and lose that you should pay the full court fees. That’s something that would reduce frivolous lawsuits, but that’s not pertinent to this case.

One caller who came the closest to saying “no” had a great point and that was that the person who should be named was the Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, whose call it was to take this case to trial. It never should have gone to trial in the first place. But still, that doesn’t answer the question.

The reason why the answer is “no” is because the burden of proof is different in a criminal trial than in say a civil trial. In a criminal trial there is no judgment given toward the accuser, only the accused. Because of the high standard imposed in a criminal trial, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the fact that a defendant could be acquitted says nothing about whether or not the accuser in any way lied or was not harmed and had every right to go to trial. Because of that, it is clearly not fair to punish the accuser by making their name public when the only thing that has been proved was that following the strict letter of the law the defendant could not be found guilty.

In this case the jury requested of the judge the legal definition of the word “intent” and once they got it they quickly reached their decision – “Not Guilty” on all three counts. But the consensus of every juror who spoke out after the trial was that something definitely happened – they just couldn’t go with a guilty verdict and follow the letter of the law, as is their duty.

I have no comment as to whether the Puck was really guilty or innocent, so I’ll let him have the last words, spoken to the press after the verdict was read:

“I have the greatest lawyers in the world.”

Previous post:

Next post: