I’ve always wondered what compels attorneys to represent people who are accused, with substantial evidence, of disgusting things like abuse, rape or grisly murders.
Do they genuinely believe their clients are innocent? Or are they really willing to give the false impression that a guilty person is innocent for the sake of doing their jobs?
I suppose this is why many have such a cynical view of lawyers, since, at the end of the day, it is their job to argue that their client is innocent, regardless of the facts.
This is what attorney Laura Menninger has been tasked with as she represents accused sex abuser and trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell. Whether or not she sincerely believes the notorious former girlfriend and alleged madam to Jeffrey Epstein is indeed innocent, she is not above shamelessly suggesting an alleged victim was lying and faked tears in the courtroom.
This week, Maxwell’s much-anticipated trial began in federal court. An unnamed accuser, identified only as “Jane,” provided graphic testimony of sexual abuse she says she suffered at Maxwell and Epstein’s hands beginning when she was just 14.
As ABC News reported, Menninger zeroed in on inconsistencies between notes on interviews Jane had given to federal agents and prosecutors in 2020 and testimony she provided for the court this week, as well as her career as an actress.
During the testimony, Jane detailed how the infamous couple allegedly lured her into their inner circle and Epstein began to abuse her, often under Maxwell’s twisted tutelage.
According to ABC, Jane displayed little emotion while recounting the graphic encounters, but when she was confronted on Wednesday afternoon about the $5 million settlement she received as part of a compensation fund for Epstein’s victims, she broke down.
During cross-examination, Menninger brought up Jane’s history as an actress and pointed to roles she has played, which include a bullied mom, a woman stalked by a serial killer, a cancer survivor and a prostitute.
Then she took aim at Jane’s ability to portray insincere emotions.
“Are you able to cry on command?” Menninger asked her, according to the ABC report.
“Not always,” Jane replied. “That’s not how it works.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe later asked Jane if she knew the difference between acting and providing testimony in court.
Jane said that she did. “Acting on TV isn’t real. Testifying is.”
Moe asked if she was acting during her testimony, or if anyone had told her what to say to the court.
“No,” Jane replied to each of these questions.
I don’t know what kind of effect Menninger’s tactics will have on the jury, but I can certainly guess that in the court of public opinion, Maxwell’s attorney is doing her client no favors by cruelly and systematically victim-shaming a woman who says she was sexually abused by Maxwell and Epstein for years when she was a vulnerable and innocent girl.
As a conservative woman, I have a great many criticisms of the #MeToo movement and the notion that we should #BelieveAllWomen, but treating a woman alleging serial sexual abuse like this on the stand is exactly why such narratives exist.
Maxwell is absolutely entitled to the presumption of innocence. It is this attorney’s job to argue that she is, indeed, innocent. Menninger’s questions for Jane, however, are blatant gaslighting, and for once I have to agree with the feminists that this is exactly why so many women are so afraid to come forward about sexual abuse.
It’s traumatizing enough being violated and abused in one of the most sinful and heinous ways imaginable; what victim would want to come forward if she knew that it was possible she’d be publicly accused of not only lying, but using acting skills to cry phony tears?
I can imagine that Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys are somewhere taking notes, considering most of his accusers are theatrically skilled.
I’m not a trial lawyer, but from where I’m standing, I see absolutely no reason why this attorney couldn’t have tried a line of reasoning that still remained within the bounds of basic human decency and respect for the victims of sexual abuse.
It’s true that at the end of the day we don’t know whether Jane is telling the truth, but her testimony is certainly entirely consistent with everything we know about Maxwell and Epstein, so you can probably guess my opinion as to the veracity of her story.
This attorney is ruthless and couldn’t care less about the moral implications of her line of questioning. She just wants to get her wealthy, privileged client off the hook, so she’s smearing and slandering the character of a perfectly innocent woman — and by proxy, all women with difficult stories to tell — in the process.
I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to guess that she just unwittingly made Maxwell look that much more despicable and callous in the process.
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