I now call to the witness stand ... your jeans

A South Korean court overturns a man's rape conviction because of the state of his alleged victim's pants.

By Catherine Price

Published April 24, 2008 8:10PM (EDT)

You know how in Saudi Arabia's sharia courts, the testimony of one man equals the testimony of two women? Well, South Korea just upped the ante. The Seoul High Court has overturned a man's rape conviction, despite his presumed victim's "coherent testimony" in court and injuries that required 20 weeks of medical care, because of a new "witness" to the event: her jeans.

Here's the skinny: In 2006, the supposed victim was waiting for a friend in a motel as the friend checked in with a guy she'd met in a nightclub. When the friend turned down the guy's advances, he turned on the first woman and allegedly tried to rape her. Presumably in an attempt to escape, the woman then jumped from the sixth-floor room's window.

I don't know about you, but if I were trying to decide this case, I might rely pretty heavily on the woman's testimony, which the lower court said "left no grounds for doubt," according to the Korea Times. Then I might look at the fact that she leapt from a sixth-floor window -- which, unless she had a side career as a BASE jumper, seems like a pretty extreme move from someone who was just bored with the conversation.

But then, I didn't go to law school. Apparently, the high court focused on the fact that the woman's jeans -- "skinny" jeans, to be exact -- were found neatly folded by the bed, and overturned the lower court's ruling. "Lots of things point to the accused attempting the rape," said the judge in the latest ruling. "But a pair of skinny jeans and underwear found by the bedside neatly folded and the fact that such denims are hard for another to take off beg clearer evidence to prove him guilty." He then also said, according to the Korea Times, that the fact that the woman had a medical record of depression should be taken into account.

I'm not even sure where to start with this one, probably because any rebuttal requires buying in to the basic assumption that a pair of folded jeans should have more standing in court than a woman's testimony. Or that the fact that a woman has a history of depression means that she must be lying about being raped.

So instead, I'll just say this to the judge (and, for that matter, to the jeans): Rapists can fold laundry, too.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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