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The defense begins to call witnesses. Beau’s high school football coach, Bob Eustace, testifies first. He says that Beau was respectful in high school and always had empathy for others. Beau’s assault against Allison, Eustace says, seems out of character. Van Valkenberg cross-examines Eustace, and asks if he thinks Beau’s actions deserve punishment. He says he thinks Beau needs treatment, but is reluctant to agree that Beau should be imprisoned. Van Valkenberg asks if Eustace has learned anything about Beau during the hearing, and Eustace says he feels heartbroken for Allison. Van Valkenberg ends his cross-examination, and Judge Townsend asks Eustace what kind of punishment Beau deserves. Eustace thinks he needs treatment and monitoring, certainly, but persistently avoids answering the question of whether he thinks Beau should be imprisoned. Keely Williams and Allison Huguet both find it unnerving that a former teacher from their school would come to testify on Beau’s behalf.
The next witness to take the stand for Beau is John Peterson, Beau’s former employer. He says that Beau was a great worker and respectful young man. He says he believes Beau deserves punishment, but mostly he wishes he could turn back time and make the whole thing go away. He doesn’t want to see Beau in prison. Datsopolous asks if Peterson would hire Beau again when he returns to the community. Peterson says he would. Van Valkenberg begins his cross-examination and asks Peterson what his feelings would be if Beau had raped his daughter. He admits he would have testified in the same way Kevin Huguet did.
Next, Datsopoulos calls two psychologists to testify, one hired by the defense, Dr. Robert Page, and one by the prosecution, Dr. Jim Meyers. Both argue that Beau is at a low risk to reoffend, but both admit under cross-examination from Van Valkenberg that, in consultation with them, Beau tried to present the sex he had with Allison as consensual. Under cross-examination, Dr. Page admits that it is therapeutically beneficial for victims when their attackers are punished for their crimes. Dr. Myers acknowledges that Beau lied about his success in a drug rehabilitation program. The next witness Datsopoulos calls is Larry Donaldson, Beau’s father. Larry Donaldson testifies that Beau and his family have had nothing to do with the way Allison has been slandered in the community after Beau raped her. He blames Beau’s mistakes on alcohol. Finally, Beau himself takes the stand. He says that he apologizes to everyone involved, especially Allison and her family.
After Beau’s brief testimony, Van Valkenberg makes his closing statement. He argues that Beau has not been honest with himself or with his family and that the sentence recommended by the state of thirty years with twenty years suspended is the most appropriate for Beau’s actions. Then Milt Datsopoulos gives his closing argument, recommending that Beau be given five years at the Department of Corrections, which would result in his being incarcerated for six months to a year. Judge Townsend asks if Beau has anything else to say on his behalf. He doesn’t. She sentences Beau to the state prison for thirty years with twenty years suspended. Beau weeps, and his girlfriend scream hysterically from the gallery. In conversation later, Hillary McLaughlin tells Krakauer she thinks back on what happened to her. She wonders regretfully whether she might have prevented Allison from getting raped if she had come forward.
In Chapter 19, Krakauer contrasts the sometimes hesitant and uncertain testimony of Beau’s character witnesses against the previous decisive and emotional testimony of Allison’s witnesses. Mostly, Datsopoulous decided not to cross-examine Allison’s character witnesses because he had little to gain by doing so. Van Valkenberg, however, does cross-examine Beau’s. Under cross-examination, it becomes clear that Coach Eustace is unable to square his high opinion of Beau with what he has learned about Beau’s crimes. His support for Beau is broken by his expressions of sympathy for Allison. Judge Townsend also sees that Coach Eustace cannot bring himself to advocate strongly for Beau, and perhaps that is why she, too, decides to question Coach Eustace. The question Judge Townsend asks Coach Eustace is straightforward and simple, but Eustace cannot give a straightforward and simple response. One of Krakauer’s messages in Missoula is that complex legal systems and a cloud of poorly reasoned arguments obscure the definitive actions and consequences of rape. The precise and determined language Krakauer uses when describing Beau’s actions during Allison’s rape stands in sharp relief against Eustace’s vague and equivocal language on the stand.
The question that Van Valkenberg asks John Peterson in cross-examination—of whether he would feel the same way about Beau Donaldson if Beau had raped his (Peterson’s) daughter—is one of the questions Missoula continuously asks of its readers. By always taking the victims at their word, Krakauer appeals for readers to empathize with victims first and foremost. If the appeal becomes repetitive, it is perhaps only because so often society fails to have empathy for victims, siding instead with the often privileged young men who rape them. Peterson’s honest testimony, that he would feel the same way as Kevin Huguet, does not bode well for Beau’s sentence. Like Eustace, Peterson testifies for Beau but seems to have a hard time advocating that Beau be punished lightly.
It seems like a good sign for Beau’s defense that both of the psychologists who evaluated Beau find him a low-risk to reoffend. Van Valkenberg does an excellent job, however, of getting both psychologists to acknowledge evidence that Beau has not taken full responsibility for his crime. For Allison and her family, Beau’s refusal to acknowledge that he raped her despite pleading guilty to rape in court is a contradiction that cannot be ignored. Milt Datsopoulous and the character witnesses that testify on Beau’s behalf all suggest that drug treatment and sex offender treatment will be enough punishment for Beau. Dr. Meyers’ testimony that Beau has misrepresented how well he did with the substance abuse treatment he already completed is significant because it suggests that, contrary to the arguments of Beau’s defense, therapy is not enough to change Beau’s character. Beau’s father, Larry Donaldson, is a sincere witness, but even he cannot defend the actions of his son. Instead, he tries to shift the blame off Beau and onto his substance abuse problems. Beau himself can do nothing on the stand but apologize.
In U.S. criminal court, prosecutors call witnesses and give their closing statements first. This is done to give the advantage to the defense, which can rebut the prosecution’s claims. In Chapter 20, Krakauer shows how little Beau’s defense lawyer, Milt Datsopoulous, can do to challenge prosecutor Fred Van Valkenberg’s arguments against Beau. Datsopoulos’ only argument is that his alternative, lighter sentence is harsh enough to make Beau suffer. Until Beau’s girlfriend screams from the gallery after Beau’s sentence, the reader has no idea she exists. Her reaction shows just how morally complicated rapists and rape can be. Rape doesn’t necessarily prevent someone from being a loved husband or boyfriend, and it doesn’t necessarily nullify a person’s other good deeds. Rape is so atrocious and psychologically disturbing for its victims, however, that, as McLaughlin’s statements to Krakauer indicate, victims sometimes blame themselves not just for being raped but also for allowing their rapist’s future crimes.