The much publicized court case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn has finally come to an end and now the only question that remains to be answered is whether or not justice has been done. Dominique was a powerful French politician who was accused of raping a maid in his hotel room earlier this year. The facts of the matter are that the maid in question was in the room for 7 minutes and gave Dominique (whom she had never met) oral sex in that time. She then accused him of rape and shortly thereafter he was arrested in the US and charged. After that several other women came forward to state that they also had been sexually assaulted by Dominique but had previously remained silent. The details of the reasoning behind dropping the charges from the prosecutors themselves is here.
It seems hard to think that Dominique could possibly be innocent. A man accused of sexual misconduct from several sources who convinces a woman he does not know to give him oral sex at her workplace in a matter of a couple minutes at most? Bloody unlikely story, that. The trick is that the testimony of the maid in question changed dramatically from time to time though, including the details of how the event happened. The maid also told police and prosecutors of a previous rape in another country and then recanted the story later, which raised grave doubts as to the justice of proceeding with a trial based solely on her testimony. If she successfully convinced a number of people of a fictitious rape she almost certainly could do so again with the jury. So here we have a situation where nearly everybody involved thinks the accused is guilty and yet he is being sent home and cleared of all charges.
Was this right?
My answer is yes. The prosecutors have the obligation to only put people on trial if they believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty and that they have a reasonable chance of a conviction. Allowing people to be dragged before the courts when the people trying to convict them think they aren't guilty or that a guilty conviction isn't likely would be disastrous - these sorts of accusations are ruinous regardless of their truth. The legal system has an obligation to not let the entire decision rest in the hands of a jury, especially so when the case has been national news and many or most jurors will already have formed opinions on the matter from media sources.
Witness testimony is always a fickle and unreliable thing. Eyewitnesses to crimes regularly remember things that are completely false, identify people that were not there and otherwise disagree with indisputable facts. When the entire case revolves around one person's word against another's we must be exceedingly careful to be sure that the credibility of the people involved has some weight. Dominique is probably guilty of rape. However, it is far more critical that we protect the integrity of our legal system and the rights of those who aren't guilty than it is that we prosecute him for a crime he probably, but not certainly, committed.
Justice? Probably not. However, it was the right thing to do.