Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stubblefield case goes to jury

The Stubblefield case went to the jury today, after closing arguments from defense and prosecution. The jury will resume deliberating tomorrow.
In order to convict Stubblefield on the two counts of aggravated sexual assault she is facing, prosecutors must prove D.J. was mentally defective or physically helpless to the point where he could not consent, and that Stubblefield knew or should have known he suffered from those conditions.
Sorting through those issues will largely depend on how the jury evaluates a controversial technique known as "facilitated communication," which Stubblefield claims to have used to communicate with D.J.
Advocates of the method claim facilitators provide physical support to assist users with typing on a keyboard. But critics have said the method is ineffective in light of studies showing facilitators influencing the users' messages.
Stubblefield has claimed D.J. is not intellectually impaired and that he was able to consent through facilitated communication.
Stubblefield worked with D.J. through that technique for roughly two years after she was first introduced to him in 2009 through his brother.
D.J.'s brother, then a Rutgers student, was taking a course of Stubblefield's during which the professor showed a video about the method. The brother later asked her for more information about the method to see if it might help D.J.
Over the following two years, Stubblefield said D.J. communicated through the typing method. She said he wrote papers that were presented at conferences and wrote essays for a literature class he took at Rutgers.
Stubblefield said she and D.J. fell in love and ultimately disclosed their sexual relationship to his mother and brother in May 2011.
Her defense lawyer argued that facilitated communication is effective and through it, DJ demonstrated his compentence and consent to the sexual relationship. In the alternative, even if it isn't, effective, Stubblefield was not in a position to know this.
In his closing statement, Patton pointed to various examples that he claimed shows D.J. was the author of the messages he typed while Stubblefield was using facilitated communication with him.
Patton noted how D.J. sometimes made mistakes in his typing and that he conveyed information Stubblefield was unaware of.
In one instance after the sexual relationship was disclosed, Stubblefield was facilitating D.J. and he correctly answered questions posed by his brother about a relative, but Stubblefield had no idea what the correct answers were, according to Patton.
Those answers show the communication between Stubblefield and D.J. was "valid communication," Patton said.
"All of the evidence demonstrates that this was a mutually, loving relationship, that they were able to converse and that they made conscious decisions before going ahead," Patton said.
Patton also argued that even if jurors believe D.J. was mentally defective or physically helpless to the point where he could not consent, they could not find Stubblefield should have known about those conditions.
To support that argument, Patton noted how a state expert testified facilitators may be unaware they're moving users' hands as part of the dynamic also seen in the use of the "Ouija board," the classic board game supposedly used to connect players to the spirit world.
Bullshit, said the prosecutor Plant.
But Plant dismissed Patton's examples of the technique working with D.J. He challenged the claim that Stubblefield was unaware of the answers regarding D.J.'s relative.
Plant stressed how every methodologically sound study of facilitated communication have determined it does not work. He claimed Stubblefield lied in her testimony about studies involving the method.
"Just because the facilitated communication community is over in the corner shouting does not mean that the issue is not settled," Plant told the jurors. "She should have known better. That's not how law-abiding citizens act."
Plant repeatedly noted how Stubblefield was the only witness to claim D.J. is not mentally defective and can consent to sexual activity, but he claimed she does not have the expertise to reach such a conclusion.
"She doesn't have the knowledge. She doesn't have the degrees. She doesn't have the experience, and she doesn't have the legal right to tell you that," Plant told the jurors.
Meanwhile, two psychologists evaluated D.J. and completed a total of three reports that found D.J. is mentally defective, according to Plant. Plant highlighted those findings as well as an evaluation by a speech pathologist, who determined D.J. is intellectually impaired. Those three experts testified on behalf of the state.
I don't have a clue what the jury will decide.


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