I REALLY Want To Read The Eshan Abdulaziz Trial Transcript
Dec. 21, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Eshan Abdulaziz, a Saudi property developer living in London, was acquitted of raping an 18-year-old that he had invited back to his apartment after an evening at a nightclub. The reason this is news is because of his…unusual…defense:
A Saudi millionaire has been cleared of raping a teenager after claiming he might have accidentally penetrated the 18-year-old when he tripped and fell on her.
Property developer Ehsan Abdulaziz, 46, was accused of forcing himself on the teenager as she slept off a night of drinking on the sofa of his Maida Vale flat.
He had already had sex with her 24-year-old friend and said he might have slipped over on top of the younger woman.
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He said he had gone to wake her to offer her a T-shirt to sleep in or a taxi ride home, but she had pulled him on top of her and placed his hand between her legs.
He said it was possible he had semen on his hands after the sexual encounter with her friend.
This is the kind of argument that defense attorneys joke about in dead dog loser cases, like when there’s video, 3 eyewitnesses, DNA, and a signed, properly Mirandized confession. On the face of it, it’s about as absurd as claiming self-defense when the victim assaulted your fist with his face as he was lying on the ground, or claiming that a supposed murder victim actually committed suicide by shooting himself in the back of the head three times. It’s such a stock joke that I’ve seen it in at least two different places:
Except, it worked. Not only did it work, the jury returned a not guilty verdict in 30 minutes.
Commentary on the internet has tended to go in two directions. Either the verdict happened because of sexism inherent in the legal system, or because rich people can buy justice. Neither of these theories is particularly convincing. If the jury had hung, the sexism theory might hold some water, but the likelihood of twelve randomly selected people unanimously nullifying an otherwise convincing case from the prosecution because they were “blaming the victim” seems pretty much impossible, especially because England eliminated peremptory challenges in 1988. Likewise, overt corruption (i.e., Abdulaziz bribed 12 jurors to cast not-guilty votes) also seems impossible. It would have come out.
So what happened? Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell just by reading the newspaper articles, but lucky for you, dear reader, this is Fault Lines, and when it comes to criminal defense issues we’re smarter than the average bear.
Here’s an earlier article about the trial, written December 9 (the acquittal was reported on Dec. 16):
The next thing the alleged victim remembers is waking up in the early hours of the morning on the sofa with Abdulaziz on top of her forcing himself inside her, it is claimed.
Prosecutor Jonathan Davies said: “She said ‘what are you doing?’ he said ‘it’s fine’ indicating that her friend was asleep. She got up to find her friend, tried to wake her but couldn’t, she then tried to get out of the flat as quickly as she could.
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[Abdulaziz] is then said to have changed his story after DNA tests found traces of his semen.
Mr Davies said: “That caused him to be re-interviewed in May this year and he was confronted with that finding.
“On this occasion he said after he had sex with the complainant’s friend his penis was still erect and he had semen on his hands when he went into the living room.
“He said in the second interview she pushed his hands down on to her vagina. He said that he did fall onto her and his penis may have penetrated her vagina. You may consider, members of the jury, him changing the account he was giving.”
The original article doesn’t sound like it’s reporting the testimony of witnesses (what is referred to in technical legal terms as “evidence”). It’s all “it is claimed” this, and “Mr. Davies said” that. That sounds like the prosecutor’s opening statement, which is not evidence.
What’s even more significant is what’s not reported. There’s no mention anywhere of the testimony of the complainant, nor of the friend, or for that matter of anyone else besides Abdulaziz. Apparently, though, the judge allowed twenty minutes of testimony from Abdulaziz in private, meaning the jury got to hear it but the general public did not. Also, English law requires the recording of suspect interrogations in serious cases.
The rest of this is pure guesswork, but it’s an attempt to explain the inexplicable while accounting for all the facts. Abdulaziz’s statement about how his semen got into the victim was probably made when the police interrogated him in May. In other words, he initially denied raping her, and when they asked him to explain how his semen ended up where it did, said something like “Well, I might have tripped on her.”
If he is lying about the rape, it’s a stupid lie, because from the circumstances, he would have been much better off claiming that they had consensual sex. Of course, any defense attorney more than six months out of law school can tell you, defendants tell stupid lies all the time. But the jury would have heard or watched the recording of the interrogation and been in a good position to evaluate the context of the statement and the defendant’s credibility.
As for the stuff we don’t know, the complainant would have testified, as well as a DNA expert from the Crown. What came out on cross-examination? The kicker is the 20 minutes of testimony that was closed to the public. The only reason for that I can think of is that it involved Abdulaziz exposing his genitals, to show that his junk did not match the complainant’s description of it, and did so in such a way that it completely eviscerated the prosecution’s case. However it happened, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and a 30 minute acquittal shows that the jury completely rejected the prosecution’s case.
Whatever happened, the verdict was a masterpiece of criminal defense. Which is why, again, I *really* want to the read the transcript.