Mistrial Declared In Backpage Founders' Trial; After DOJ Ignores Judge's Rules Regarding What It Could Present
from the poisoning-the-well dept
As we noted recently, the trial of Backpage’s founders finally started after years of legal wrangling. However, the judge has already declared a mistrial after the DOJ, in typical DOJ fashion, tried to ignore the judge’s warnings against focusing too specifically on the specifics of sex trafficking alleged to have occurred on the site. Specifically, prosecutors repeatedly referred to child sex trafficking, despite the fact that there are no sex trafficking charges in the case (let alone child sex trafficking):
U.S. District Judge Susan Brnovich said that the cumulative effect of the child sex trafficking references made by prosecutors in opening statements and by witnesses for the government ?is something that I can?t overlook and will not overlook.?
Before the trial, the judge concluded she would allow evidence showing that people were trafficked using the site, but would not allow prosecutors to linger on the details of the abuse suffered by victims.
?It seemed the government abused that leeway,? Brnovich said. The judge said one government witness testified about being raped more than once, which raises a ?whole new emotional response from people.?
This is the thing that always seems to happen with Backpage. People insist that if they just demonstrate some of the (very real and very terrible) examples of bad stuff that happened, in part, via the platform, they don’t have to meet the burden of actually proving the crime at issue happened. We’ve seen that repeatedly — including in the comments to our last post about Backpage and in years of coverage about the company. People highlight bad (really awful) stuff that happened because people abused the platform, and then assume they can just skip all of the important steps regarding pinning the liability on the company (and its founders).
It’s depressing, if not surprising, that it was apparently the DOJ’s plan to try the same strategy in court, and it’s good to see the judge put a stop to it.