A Kansas woman used 134-year-old state law to convene a citizen grand jury after prosecutors refused to raise rape allegations over a sexual encounter that she claims had become an assault.
Madison Smith, 22, collected the hundreds of signatures it took to put together a grand jury. According to the Associated Press, she shared her story with strangers in a parking lot. She went through the process twice because her original petition was dismissed on technical grounds.
Kansas is one of six states that allow citizens to use an 1887 law to petition for grand jury. The point of sale notes that the law was rarely applied until anti-abortion activists began impaning large juries to investigate abortion clinics.
The case is due to be considered in September and is the first that it has Act is used to prove sexual assault.
Smith claims that in 2018, as a student at Bethany College in Lindsborg, she came across Jared Stolzenburg while washing and that they eventually made their way to his dorm to have sex . After it started consensually, Stolzenburg began strangling and beating her, which affected her breathing ability.
“I really thought he was going to kill me and the only way to get out of this room was in a body bag “said Smith. “He would strangle me for 20 or 30 seconds at a time and I would begin to pass out.” Stolzenburg pleaded guilty to worsening the battery and received two years probation for his actions, but Smith argued that this is not enough.
“This is happening nationally and globally, with victims and survivors being minimized by prosecutors who don’t believe them,” said Smith. “And that’s not okay because the rape culture is so prevalent and we need to get rid of it. One way to do that is to get our stories out.”
Smith’s mother was in a taped conversation with the attorney of McPherson County, Gregory Benefiel, said the case was difficult to follow up because she had not verbally withdrawn consent. However, Smith argued that she could not do it because she was being suffocated.
Benefiel later told the outlet that the case was difficult to follow as they were “looking for evidence of this type of CSI”. Benefiel added that both he and Smith want “truth and justice” in this case.
The AP report states that Stolzenburg said he should have communicated better with Smith and that he “felt sorry for.” the victim “. Stolzenburg’s defense attorney Brent Boyer said during the hearing that his client’s family had received death threats and that he wanted to “move forward.” Minnesota district attorney Julie Germann reviewed the law that Smith calls a grand jury and claims the incident is worth rape if the entire case is observed.
“This idea that, because she consented, everything that follows is acceptable is a very dangerous precedent,” said Germann.
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