EVERY now and then there is a famous trial that stirs the emotions of the public, the latest involving the unfortunate tragedy in Florida that resulted from an altercation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Although the circumstances of the Zimmerman trial were far different from Mike Tyson's in 1992, it conjured up memories of what took place during that period of time and reflections on the fairness of it all.
For the last 20 years I had been of the opinion that the guilty verdict handed down to Tyson for raping Desiree Washington had been an appropriate one, but recent circumstances have me reconsidering.
I came to my original conclusion after hearing of the testimony in the Indianapolis courtroom. Tyson's legal defense was pathetic. They made mistake after mistake while portraying Tyson in a negative light. And Tyson's overall conduct leading up to the trial was as a man out of control, capable of committing the crime of which he was accused.
My first inkling that Tyson might not have done what he was convicted of came recently when he lashed out at Washington for having accused him of a crime he swears he did not commit. That would normally have carried no weight with me, but when you consider the person that Tyson has now become it gives you reason for pause. In his past life Tyson was dubbed the baddest man on the planet, but this version of Mike is ego-free and anxious to shed the image of a tough guy. He is soft spoken, humble, and speaks sincerely. There are no excuses for the past. He has reconnected with those like Steve Lott, a close aide from the Cus D'Amato days. The hostility that Mike felt toward Don King is no longer emotional, if it is there at all. He has even forged a warm relationship with Evander Holyfield. The reckless lifestyle has been replaced as one of a family man.
Of course, the above change in Tyson came many years after his conviction. It was that Tyson who wound up getting incarcerated, not the kinder, gentler one we now know. But my point is this: That Tyson has been able to come to grips with the demons of his past, acknowledge what wrongdoing he has done. The lone exception to that has been his rape conviction.
So cruel is the act of raping another individual that you can't expect Tyson to now admit he had done such a thing. Admitting to such a horrendous act would stigmatise Tyson in the minds of the countless people who have believed in his innocence all along. However two decades later Tyson is arguing he was hard done.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks of him as Mike Tyson the rapist. A much bigger part of the Tyson anti social image would be having bitten Holyfield's ear.
Back to the trial in Indianapolis, where the 12 jurors convicted Tyson. I just finished reading the book about that "Down For The Count" - The Shocking Truth Behind the Mike Tyson Rape Trial by Mark Shaw, a former criminal defense attorney and journalist. The book was written shortly after the trial, but somehow slipped under my radar until now.
In the book it is apparent that based on the evidence presented to the jury, their verdict was just. What was not presented to them is what disturbs me. It resulted in one juror saying afterward that his verdict would have been different had he known.
As soon as the trial ended, Washington brought a civil suit against Tyson. That was certainly within her right. It was settled quietly out of court.
What the jury did not hear was prior to the trial, Washington had hired an attorney to arrange a book and movie deal for her. This does not sound like a woman traumatised even though she very well may have been.
Had it been admissible during the trial, the real smoking gun would have been Washington making a prior rape accusation against a high school classmate by the name of Wayne Walker. It turned out that she made that one up. Clearly she had issues at that time.
The rules for a conviction are clear, the jury has to determine if they think the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And reasonable doubt is what I have all these years later.