Created By: Wykypydya on July 14, 2013 Last Edited By: Wykypydya on July 15, 2013

Criminal Vs. Victim in Court

A criminal defendant represents himself/herself in court and cross-examines the victim.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
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")
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • July 14, 2013
    Quag15
    I think you oughta change the title and make a smaller laconic if possible. Some people might not take this thing light-heartedly.
  • July 14, 2013
    Wykypydya
    OK, do you have any suggestions of what the title and laconic should be? Do you think they're too specific?
  • July 14, 2013
    Quag15
    They might be specific, yeah. Try putting other examples of serious crimes or rewrite the description to include them. As for the title, how about Criminal Vs Victim In Court? And, in the case of the laconic, I suggest "The criminal represents himself/herself in court and cross-examines the victim." Talk about the re-victimization in the description.
  • July 14, 2013
    StarSword
    I feel like the main part of the trope is the defendant's revictimizing the victim. As such:

    TV:
    • The Blue Bloods episode "Working Girls" has Yuri Denko, a Russian arms dealer on trial for murdering a man's wife in cold blood over a business dispute, and proceeds to threaten the man's children in open court. This scares him into not testifying and Denko's thugs kill him that evening. The rest of the episode concerns the Reagans' efforts to protect a surviving witness.
  • July 14, 2013
    Wykypydya
    OK, I modified the title and the laconic to be "softer" and more generic, and also made a few additions to the draft. Do you think the draft needs an extensive rewrite to be generic for all kinds of crimes early on instead of just stating them at the end, given that this trope is mostly used for rape trials?
  • July 14, 2013
    Wykypydya
    @Starsword: Is that TV example done in a cross-examination? Should this draft use cross-examinations as the primary focus but be broadened to also include "outbursts" by defendants that would also serve to re-victimize a victim? The thing is that an "outburst" would probably be un-sanctioned, whereas the case of cross-examination is where the defendant gets to officially re-victimize the victim.
  • July 14, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ I'd say yes. Tropes Are Flexible after all. There's no point of creating a trope of its own for something that serves exactly the same purpose what it comes to the story.
  • July 14, 2013
    Wykypydya
    OK, I tried adding the paragraph at the end about other ways a defendant might re-victimize a victim in open court. But then can this no longer be treated as a sub-trope of A Fool For A Client? Is the proposed article better with this expanded scope?
  • July 14, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Don't mean to sound like I know your trope better than you do, but I really don't think it was about the self-representation to begin with, therefore it never really was a subtrope. And yes, my example was a courtroom outburst.
  • July 14, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    A variation: Injun Joe's not on trial, Muff Potter is. However, when he examines Tom Sawyer, who was a witness to the murder for which Potter is being tried, Sawyer's testimony exposes Injun Joe as the real killer. Realizing his game's up, Injun Joe promptly jumps out of a window in the courthouse, and Potter is quickly acquitted.
  • July 14, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Variation: In Bones Serial Killer the Gravedigger has murdered multiple victims and also attempted murder on Booth, Brennan and Hodgens. In order to be able to continue working on the case, BB&H all drop charges so they can testify in the one count the Gravedigger is currently on trial for, where she is representing herself. All three take the witness stand and the Gravedigger attmpts to intimidate all of them
  • July 15, 2013
    captainpat
    This description is way too long, there needs to be some significant cuts. This trope is not that hard to understand.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=56u1lxcp3cov8xiiwaibmfn0