A QUESTION OF CONSENT: Innocence and Complicity in the Glen Ridge Rape Case by Peter Laufer

A QUESTION OF CONSENT: Innocence and Complicity in the Glen Ridge Rape Case

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An instant replay of the trial of four suburban New Jersey high school athletes who sexually assaulted a retarded girl with a bat and broom. Laufer (Nightmare Abroad: Stories of Americans Imprisoned in Foreign Lands, 1993) quotes long stretches of the court record as he presents the Glen Ridge case in all of its made-for-TV depravity: the pathetically malleable victim, incapable of saying no; the rich, handsome football heroes who conspired to torture her; the sleazy, inept defense attorney who actually argued that ""boys will be boys."" Laufer knows how to keep the reader riveted to the courtroom drama, although he overdoes the you-are-there verisimilitude ("" 'Please bring the jury out,' ordered Judge Cohen""). But the book suffers from his tendency to substitute dead-end moral judgments for legal analysis: The ""Glen Ridge story...is certainly about consent [but] mostly it is about four evil, misguided criminals."" Interviews with some trial observers and participants yield more subtle insights, but Laufer has a way -- ironic in this context -- of merely quoting their sometimes rambling thoughts while confining his own analysis to their physical appearance. For example, he undercuts a NOW organizer's critique of the case with comments about her makeup and jewelry, and he describes a female prosecutor who grants him a post-trial interview as ""periodically pull[ing] on the hem of her long dress as it rides up her leg, exposing her slip."" One of the most challenging questions of the case -- whether the ""Glen Ridge rapists would be serving long prison sentences if they were not rich white kids"" -- is raised but barely pursued. Best for the brisk editing of a shocking court transcript; otherwise, superficial and melodramatic. Court TV does it better.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Mercury House