Former Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield, who was accused of sexually assaulting a disabled man who was unable to speak, has had her convictions overturned after an appellate court determined she did not get a fair trial.
The court ordered that Stubblefield get another trial overseen by a new judge.
The decision was handed down Friday, overturning Stubblefield's two 2015 convictions for first-degree aggravated sexual assault. During the trial, the jury concluded that Stubblefield, then a 39-years-old philosophy professor, had sexually assaulted a then-29-year-old man known only as D.J. in 2011. The man had cerebral palsy and was unable to speak apart from making noises. Psychologists determined that D.J. couldn't consent to sex because he was mentally impaired.
During the trial, Stubblefield's lawyers maintained that she and D.J. fell in love and that she was able to communicate with him through a typing method called "facilitated communication."
Following the conviction, Stubblefield was sentenced to two consecutive 12-year terms in prison and lifetime parole supervision.I am all for overturning the cruel and pointless sentence Stubblefield was subjected to, but I fervently hope that the appellate decision does not resurrect claims of legitimacy of facilitated communication. It has been thoroughly discredited as a method that allows the non verbal to communicate in their own voice, and worse, it has done massive harm to some of those subjected to it and their families, both of which was vividly shown to a general audience by a Frontline episode from 1993(!). Here it is: