Subtrope of A Fool for a Client
In a Crime and Punishment Series
, a man accused of rape will choose to become A Fool for a Client
. Normally this would be a great thing for the prosecution, but in this case, the victim, who is living in fear and was already reluctant to testify as a complaining witness against her perpetrator in open court, then feels blindsided and becomes extremely intimidated from testifying, because by the perpetrator representing himself he will get to confront and cross-examine her in person
. This will essentially let him re-victimize the victim all over again by forcing her to answer traumatizing questions as a form of psychological warfare. When this trope occurs, the defendant is often very adept at defending himself, unlike the implication of "fool for a client". The victim will often ask the prosecution team if the defendant can be stopped from doing so, to which they sadly say "no", and as a result, the victim then wants to back out and drop the charges. However, the prosecution team, and also sometimes the rape crisis counselor and the victim's other supporters, will attempt to reassure the victim that in the courtroom she
is in control and the perp can't do anything to harm her, that there will be a judge and bailiff who keep the situation under control, and that victims who testify and confront their rapists almost always feel better after the fact than victims who don't and let the perpetrator get away with it.
Often the victim will then submit and still agree to testify. A great deal of drama then ensues when the defendant cross-examines her. Sometimes the perp will actually admit to having had sex with the witness by making it look consensual, asking her if she liked it. Other times a strange conversation will ensue, in which the perp questions the witness about the alleged rape by referring to the alleged rapist in the third person as a different person, whereas the witness answers identifying the defendant as the rapist in the second person using the pronoun "you". Additional ways the defendant may browbeat or humiliate the victim-witness during the cross-examination, are by approaching the victim-witness too closely and behaving threateningly -- often in violation of court rules and in which the judge may order him to back away, sometimes repeatedly -- and by using technicalities to get around Rape Shield to harass the victim about all her prior sexual encounters. The defendant's in-person cross-examination of the victim usually has a great impact on the case, although the verdict can go either way when this trope occurs, and sometimes the victim becomes so traumatized from the in-person questioning by the perpetrator that she will do drastic things such as committing suicide. If the outcome was a not-guilty verdict, then the victim will complain to the prosecution team that she was forced to be re-victimized for nothing, to which they will respond that she did the right thing by publicly confronting her rapist.
Other times, the victim will attempt or threaten to run away and not testify, but now it is the people's case and she is a material witness, so she may become a criminal herself by running away. This can be played up as part of the trap in which the rapist is putting the victim. Often, there will be other victims, so the testimony from this particular victim will be required.
Although this trope is normally for when a male character is accused of raping a woman, the genders can be arbitrary, and sometimes the victim is a minor instead of an adult. Also, although this trope is normally for when the crime is rape, it can also be used for other kinds of crimes, such as an accused murderer cross-examining the family members of the murder victim.
This trope can also apply to other ways a defendant might re-vicitimize a victim in open court, regardless of whether he/she represents himself/herself, such as a defendant who makes a prohibited outburst in open court threatening the victim or saying that he/she loves the victim. When it's a prohibited outburst, objections will be shouted and the judge will usually bang the gavel and order the defendant to shut up or be removed from the courtroom in contempt of court. However, the case of cross-examination by the defendant of the victim is the way that the defendant can officially
re-victimize the victim. Sometimes, a defendant can have representation and cross-examine a victim-witness anyway by taking part in his/her own defense, such as in one of the season finales of Law & Order: SVU
Examples: Several in Law & Order: SVU
, and there are examples in other crime drama series.
(Originally proposed title: "The Rapist Represents Himself"
Originally proposed laconic: "Character who is criminal defendant of rape / serious crime will represent him/herself and cross-examine the victim which re-victimizes them")