After a jury announced in late May that two New York City police officers were not guilty of raping a drunk woman they escorted home, New Yorkers took to the streets in protest, confounded at how a jury could find that that Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata hadn't committed the grievous crime. On Thursday, one juror's account of the trial and the decision-making process in the jury room went up for sale through Gothamist as a long-form, non-fiction e-book. In the hours since it published, it's made quite a splash in the same circles that so hotly debated the trial's outcome -- in particular the feminist and New York news blogs.
Patrick Kirkland, the e-book's author and an advertising copywriter who lives on the Upper West Side, teased the account on his blog way back in June. "I cut off friends, family, and the outside world for these people, and hermitted myself at my desk for the simple ability to write it down. Life happened. To me. A writer. What else was I supposed to do? Talk about it? I think not." Kirkland promised to post his account on his own blog if he couldn't find a publisher. Now that he's found one, the response has been mixed. On Twitter, The Daily copy editor Derek Rose tweeted that the piece was "well worth the $2" and tech theorist Semantic Will said it was a "fucking horrible title, great read." At The Awl, Choire Sicha wrote:
It's a fascinating read, and I mean that in a very honest sense. In large part it's about how unbelievably important jury service is in America, and about how we treat those accused of crimes. Whether you like the verdict or not, or whether you like the case presented by prosecutors or not (SIGH), this view into the thinking and process of the jurors is really valuable. It also may upset you!
But as you might expect, some reactions have been less nuanced and far less positive. Feminist organizer Shelby Knox tweeted that the publication "feels... icky." Maddow producer and blogger Jamil Smith tweeted, "Hey, NYPD Rape Cop Juror Dude who thinks the cop and the victim "hit it off": sleeping women can't provide consent." Jezebel's Irin Carmon expanded on the notion of possible misunderstood consent, based on this passage from Kirkland: "What if the two became close? What if they hit it off, somewhere between the taxicab and the dead roach? A moment that turned into conversation, that turned into flirting? What if it all led to something that Moreno thought was consensual?" Carmon responds:
There's a reason Moreno never even tried to argue that there was consensual sex — in the absence of DNA evidence that any took place, despite the fact that he says he cradled her while she was wearing nothing but a bra and no evidence of that remains — he didn't have to.
It remains up to the reader to wonder what not remembering having sex has to do with mostly blacking out but waking up to being penetrated — i.e., the difference between blacked out omission and remembering something that didn't happen. Why exactly would this woman have invented the memory? For the three years of fun and analyzing the semen on her pillows?
Again, in the absence of DNA evidence that penetration occurred, it simply came down to testimony. And because the accuser was heavily intoxicated, her testimony wasn't considered credible. There is at least one juror who believed Moreno less, whom Kirkland calls Juror 11, and who seems to be Melinda Hernandez, who later gave an interview saying she believed the woman had been raped ("a woman knows when she is penetrated") but that there wasn't enough evidence to convict.
At The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman was creeped out by the fact Kirkland and Gothamist are making money from the piece:
What seems crass and tasteless about this is that juror Patrick Kirkland and Gothamist are basically charging $3 a pop for the inside story on the trial. It goes beyond tabloid journalism and strikes me as personally profiting off someone else’s misfortune. I know as well as anyone (trust me) that the media is not a money-making business; you’ve got to make a buck when you can. But Gothamist and Kirkland are making a buck off this woman’s rape accusation. I could maybe imagine charging Frisky readers, for instance, for “special content” as a concept, but this particular “special content” is only special because it involves a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a New York City police officer. As someone who also makes her living as a blogger, it would be unconscionable to charge our readers to pay for the inside scoop from a juror on a high-profile rape case.
An especially vivid detail Gothamist posted in its preview was Kirkland's account of a dinner he had with Kenneth Moreno, and his handshakes with Moreno's daughter, his attorney, and Mata. "Although Kirkland's job is done at this point, hearing of him in reporter mode with the men he just acquitted feels a bit unsavory," wrote Daily Intel's Joe Coscarelli. Overall, that seems to be the consensus: It's intensely interesting, but it's a little hard to get past what seems like a questionable ethical call. Just like in the tabloids.