Did “crying rape” lead to murder?

A woman caught having an affair told her husband it was rape and he killed her lover.

Topics: Broadsheet, Violence Against Women, Infidelity, Love and Sex,

One night, while her husband played cards a couple towns over, Tracy Roberson text messaged her lover, Devin LaSalle: “Hi friend, come see me please! I need to feel your warm embrace!” He drove to her home in Fort Worth, Texas, and parked his pickup truck outside; she greeted him wearing a bathrobe and underwear, and climbed in his truck.

Meanwhile, her husband, Darrell Roberson, repeatedly called home without answer. When he finally got their 7-year-old daughter on the line, she told him that mommy wasn’t in the house — so, Mr. Roberson drove home early from his card game. He found the lovers kissing inside LaSalle’s truck and whipped out a gun, ordering his wife outside. At one point, either before or after Mr. Roberson started shooting, Mrs. Roberson screamed that this was rape, not an illicit affair. As LaSalle tried to drive away, Mr. Roberson killed him with a shot to the head.

Mrs. Roberson frantically called 911 to report the shooting, while her husband shouted at her again and again in the background: “Why you do me like that?” In later interviews with police Mr. Roberson admitted that he had long held suspicions about his wife’s infidelity; Mrs. Roberson told police that she made the false rape claim because she feared for her life, but that her husband didn’t buy her lie for a second. However, last week, Mrs. Roberson was convicted of involuntary manslaughter; meanwhile, Mr. Roberson walks free.

Jacquielynn Floyd, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, asks of the jury: “Did they blame her rape lie? Or did they blame her adultery?” Floyd continues, “The distinction may not have played much role in the end result, but it’s an important one. Because if Darrell Roberson did not, in fact, believe at the moment he fired that his wife was being raped; if, instead, he was killing mad at catching the adulterous couple in the act, then this isn’t a case about a lying woman.”



But, even if Mr. Roberson shot at LaSalle only after she made the rape claim, the outcome of this case is incredibly unusual. Last year, a grand jury actually dismissed a murder charge against Mr. Roberson and instead indicted Mrs. Roberson. Fred Moss, an associate professor at the Southern Methodist University School of Law, told The Dallas Morning News, “You don’t see people charged when they’re accused of indirectly having someone commit the actual killing. Prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was aware that saying ‘he raped me’ created a substantial risk that her husband would shoot the guy … That was a very forgiving grand jury.”

Shakesville’s Melissa McEwan argued that the ruling seems to rely on the stereotype of the hotheaded male who cannot be expected to control himself. “It suggests that women should be able to control their emotions, and are to be punished when they don’t — because, ultimately, what we have is a woman who (wrongly) told a lie in desperation, and a man who (wrongly) killed another man in anger, but it is her rash lie that is punished, not his rashly pulling the trigger.” McEwan makes a great final point: “Of course the argument is that he never would have pulled that trigger without her lie, but why does that mean he should be exempt from punishment? If she had been telling the truth, and he had killed an actual rapist, it’s still wrong.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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