Yes, I believe Dr. Blasey Ford, but I am haunted by two words: Gary Dotson

Yes, I believe Dr. Blasey Ford, but I am haunted by two words: Gary Dotson

It's over. Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For the record, I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I don't believe Kavanaugh. But the uncomfortable truth is that there have been women who have lied about sexual assault and rape.

One of the more well-publicized examples is the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which a black teenager claimed four white men had kidnapped and raped her. It was later determined to be a hoax.

What percent of rapes reported are false? It’s debatable. Some say the figure is as low as two percent. I believe it. Besides, we now know there are a flood of #MeToos (including me) who are coming out of the closet about having been sexually assaulted and raped, women who, for a variety of reasons, didn't even go to the police.

Still, after being glued to the TV watching the Kavanaugh hearing, I haven’t been able to get the Gary Dotson case out of my mind. For a time, the case was the biggest media story in Chicago and even the nation. 

Now, after the votes for or against Kavanaugh have been cast, let me tell you about the sad-but-true tale of Mr. Dotson.

It you were alive during this time period, you probably remember some of the lascivious details. If you weren’t, let me fill you in with at least the Cliffs Notes version.

On the night of July 9, 1977, 16-year-old Cathleen Crowell, was found by the police standing next to a road in south suburban Homewood. She told the officer that she had been walking home from work when three men forced into her a car, and one of them raped her.

The police took Crowell to a hospital, where superficial cuts were found on her stomach. Her underpants, which were stained with semen, were preserved as evidence. Cromwell later picked Gary Dotson out of a police mug book and in a lineup as her rapist.

Dotson was arrested, and in July 1979, was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison.

Crowell went on with her life, marrying her high school classmate, David Webb, in 1982. Crowell Webb (as she was now known) had become a devout Christian and was consumed by guilt. She told the pastor at her church that she invented the rape story, including inflicting herself with the superficial wounds, which had resulted in an innocent man being sent to prison.

In March of 1985 Crowell Webb recanted her testimony.  She said that she lied about the rape because she had had consensual sex with her then boyfriend. She made up the story in case she became pregnant.

Governor Jim Thompson personally presided over a three-day clemency hearing in front of the Prisoner Review Board. The hearing was broadcast live on TV, preempting the afternoon soap operas. It made for riveting TV, not unlike the Kavanaugh hearing.

If memory serves me, I was appalled by the Governor saying the word “panties” over and over again. I also remember those panties being on display for the world to see. 

In the end, the Prison Review Board voted unanimously to deny clemency. While Thompson said he did not believe Crowell Webb’s recantation and refused to pardon Dotson, the Governor chose to commute Dotson's sentence to the six years he had already served.

Afterwards, Dotson and his accuser and their attorneys appeared on the morning TV shows, including “Good Morning, America,” “Today” and CBS "Morning News.” A cringe-worthy moment took place on the “Morning News” when the host, Phyllis George, asked Dotson and Crowell Webb to hug. They both declined.

Dotson’s freedom didn’t last long. He had a drinking problem and was still considered a parolee. After several brushes with the law, his parole was revoked by Governor Thompson in 1987. Dotson was sent back to prison.

DNA testing was new in 1987 and was not available at the time of Dotson’s 1979 trial. With the help of a prominent Chicago attorney, Thomas M. Breen, DNA testing was performed on Crowell Webb’s semen-stained underpants.

In 1988, the test results showed the stains positively excluded Dotson and positively concluded they came from Crowell Webb’s former boyfriend. The results were confirmed by Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory.

In August 1989 Dotson’s conviction was overturned, but it wasn’t until 2003, 24 years after first being accused of rape, Dotson won a pardon based on his innocence.

I bring all of this up not because I believe Kavanaugh is innocent of the accusations against him. I don’t. I also believe that Kavanaugh's bullying, belligerent, partisan behavior at the hearing alone should have disqualified him from serving on the Supreme Court.

Not that Dotson was a choirboy, but think about it. Twenty-four years for him to clear his name. Twenty-four years. A life ruined and wasted. It’s something to think about.

Many of the details in the piece above were obtained from a variety of websites as well as from my own memory. If you want to learn more about the Dotson case, check out: 

http://www.innocenceproject.org/cases/gary-dotson/

 http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/exonerations/il/gary-dotson.html

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3186

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  • Excellent post! I can't get the image of the "panties" out of my head. It seems that every tv news report of the controversy included a shot of the stained garment.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Thank you!...I know. Me too!!!

  • The hearings were a job interview, not a trial.

  • In reply to Howard Englander:

    Are you talking about Kavanaugh, Howard?

  • In reply to Howard Englander:

    Pity the poor job applicant that will have to face the kind of interview where the accused is automatically guilty, the accuser has no or scant evidence, and where the conversation is aired in public. Should make for interesting HR rules going forward. Job interview, indeed.

    Yes, Gary Dotson, the "white trash" kid from the south suburbs, who was obviously guilty, until he wasn't A very good point by Judy Marcus.

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