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    09.02.15 Professor Lisa Smith Statement on Verdict in Trial of St. Paul’s School Student Owen Labrie
    Lisa Smith

    Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared in the Sept. 1 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

    The jury in the St Paul’s case faced the challenge of evaluating the evidence in the context of the burden of proof in a criminal trial ’beyond a reasonable doubt.’ That standard is much higher than ’preponderance of the evidence” currently used in campus hearings, which is defined as ’more likely than not.’ 

    Now that the verdict has been announced – Owen Labrie was acquitted of felony rape, but convicted of misdemeanor sex offenses – there will be many conversations around the emails and texts, the defendant’s decision to testify, DNA, the complainant’s delayed outcry – and the understanding we have of that complicated issue, and the definition of  consent. 

    The St. Paul's case, which involved a freshman and a senior, then 15- and 18-year olds, is also a pointed example of the fact that although sexual assault is a huge issue on college campuses, it is also a problem in our high schools. 

    The issue of sexual assault in our high schools must be addressed.  This case dramatically illustrates that prevention of sexual assault, through education on the concepts of consent and respect, must be addressed in our high schools, in our middle schools, and long before the freshman year of college. 

    Lisa C. Smith is Assistant Professor of Clinical Law and Director of Criminal and Judicial Externships at Brooklyn Law School. Professor Smith is a member of the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and she is the New York State Violence against Women DCJS Task Force. She was formerly the Executive Assistant District Attorney for Special Victims (Sex Crimes, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence) in the Office of the Kings County District Attorney. Professor Smith was instrumental in the creation of the Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, NY, and she has worked on numerous innovative projects in the field of child abuse and domestic violence. She is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and Brooklyn Law School. 

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