PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) - The judge for a sexual assault trial in Sarpy County set to begin in April has issued an unusual order to keep the jury impartial by banning a word from being heard in court.
Creighton University Law Professor Raneta Mack said the order from District Judge George Thompson means the prosecution and witnesses must not say the word “rape” during trial.
6 News is not identifying which trial to avoid possibly tainting the proceedings.
Mack said using the word in a trial is considered a “legal conclusion,” which the court’s order will help prevent jurors from jumping to conclusions.
“Until the prosecutor has proved the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, we don’t want any word that would suggest that the crime has occurred,” Mack said.
Thomspon sustained the defense’s motion and ordered that the state - and its witnesses - are prohibited from using, soliciting or otherwise utilizing the word “rape” at trial.
Mack said the word can have an effect on the mindset of a juror.
“If I hear the word ‘rape’ then there must be a rapist. If there’s a rapist, the prosecutor said that person is the rapist and that’s the person I’m going to send to jail. So again we don’t want jurors making those easy connections,” she said.
But a prosecutor already preparing for an emotional trial must now be careful they and witnesses like the alleged victim don’t say “rape.”
Mack said the prosecution cannot let it slip, as the defense attorney will then ask for a mistrial.