Before the $21 million civil trial started, many legal observers thought it was in the best interest of Derrick Rose to settle with his accuser. Why be an innocent observer to the nitpicking of your personal life by legal professionals? Why air your dirty laundry for social media entertainment? Why put your reputation and endorsements at stake, in the hands of strangers? Rose said repeatedly in his usual shy manner, “I feel I did nothing wrong.” The jury of 6 women and two men agreed that the behavior of Derrick Rose and his co-defendants, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton, did not amount to a crime. Their behavior did not meet the parameters of rape. In effect, what happened on that August 2013 night was consensual sex.
The private details of his sex life notwithstanding, Derrick Rose had one intention in taking these accusations to trial. “It was important to prove I did not do what I was accused of even if it meant publicly sharing very private details.”
Details aside, the obvious barrier for Derrick Rose to overcome was consent. Did Jane Doe give it? Did Derrick Rose and his co-defendants take advantage of an intoxicated woman? State law is clear. It is impossible for someone intoxicated to give consent. But there are other details of consent that had to be considered and in his jury instructions Judge Fitzgerald laid them out.
- The accuser has to freely and voluntarily agree to participate in sexual activity.
- She has to show the defendants that she was not capable of giving consent even if in fact she was too drunk.
- To prove she was too drunk to consent she must show that the effects of drugs/alcohol prevented her from consenting and that the defendants did not actually and reasonably believe that she was capable of giving consent.
Judge Fitzgerald told the jury “you should not assume that consent existed merely because of any prior sexual activity that you find occurred. The law does not recognize prior consent or automatic consent. If you find that any prior sexual activity occurred, you may consider that along with all the evidence in determining consent.”
To be clear, this sordid, salacious, character debasing spectacle of a sex trial set human morality back a dozen years. As much as this trial was about rape on the surface, it was mostly about sexual behavior and practices. It was never about sexual violence. It was inter-dependent on who did what and in what positions and how often. It was about text messages and an inability to keep private things private. It was about the NBA lifestyle, rife with parties and party drugs and casual sexual contact. Whether you believed Rose’s accuser was a desperate social climber angling for money or if you believed Derrick Rose took advantage of a drunken woman, this much was clear post-verdict. Rose will go back to his NBA life with this two week justice lesson as a minor interruption in his career.
Jane Doe’s lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, will appeal. He said Jane Doe was devastated. He said the defendants, via their attorneys, shamed the plaintiff. “I think it’s a shame for women and I think it’s a shame for this country that a celebrity can come to court and slut shame a woman like my client.”
But for two weeks the plaintiffs words, her text messages, her behavior prior to the assault and her behavior after the assault, her testimony that she was angry at Rose, the damaging testimony by a former co-worker, gave the defense the ammunition to put her sexual behavior and her character on trial. Where McCoy had a point was when he said “the consent law has to be changed.” It is confusing at best. The plaintiff had to show the defendants she was too drunk to consent. How do you do that exactly?
All trials live and die on whom you believe. The jury, 7 whites, 1 Hispanic, believed Derrick Rose and his co-defendants. The jurors found Rose “genuine” and found the lack of evidence a big failing in Jane Doe’s case. They believed Jane Doe’s former friend Gloria Chavez who testified that Jane Doe told her she was not raped. The female jurors said, “We really tried to believe her, we tried our hardest.” One of the male jurors said, “I felt like she [Jane Doe] was playing us” in regards to her constant crying.
Mark Baute, Rose’s attorney, took that to mean the system worked in the favor of three African American defendants. Perhaps in this celebrity case. But prisons are filled with ordinary black men not as privileged as Rose. They don’t have a Mark Baute on their side as an advocate; for them the system of justice and equality did not work.
And so it is over. Thankfully. For Derrick Rose this two week intrusion is in his rear view mirror. He will be on the court for the Knicks opening night playing LeBron James, the first game of the new season. After the verdict, Rose took pictures with the jurors one by one and said, “I want to put this behind me.”
History will not remember what happened here. That’s a good thing. A lot of the testimony was X-rated, too explicit to publish. When Derrick Rose’s career is over, there may be a footnote about this episode but I highly doubt it warrants more than a cursory glance. Someone might say, remember what happened in October in Los Angeles when Derrick Rose was on trial? Most people will shake their head and say no.
As the trial closed its final chapter, Judge Fitzgerald gave Rose a parting nod. “Best wishes. Except when the Knicks play the Lakers.”