A QUESTION OF CONSENT by Peter Laufer

A QUESTION OF CONSENT

Innocence and Complicity in the Glen Ridge Rape Case

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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
ISBN: 1-56279-059-5
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994




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