Summary: Chapter 25

The prosecution calls Cecilia Washburn’s roommate Steven Green as a witness. Joel Thompson questions Green, and Green testifies that Washburn never talked about wanting Johnson as a boyfriend. Green says he didn’t know how to react when he received Washburn’s text saying that she thought she might have been raped. After she returned from dropping Johnson off, he says, she cried heavily. She said she didn’t want anyone to know what happened to her, but he urged her to go to the police. Thompson concludes his examination, and Kirsten Pabst cross-examines Green. Green testifies that Washburn has no desire to be a celebrity and, since the incident, only wants to be on her own.

At the end of the first week of the trial, Claire Francoeur, the nurse practitioner that examined Cecilia Washburn at the First Step sexual-assault resource center, takes the stand. Joel Thompson questions her. She says the findings of her examination were consistent with sexual trauma. A video taken of the damage to Washburn’s genitals is played for the jury. David Paoli cross-examines Francoeur. Paoli criticizes Francoeur for not reading medical literature he asked her to review. He tries to make Francoeur seem inept, and finishes his examination. Prosecutor Adam Duerk re-examines Francoeur. He asks if there is anything that leads Francoeur to think Washburn’s injuries occurred before the night of the rape. She says there is not. Paoli objects, the two lawyers are called to the bench. After the consultation with the judge, Paoli and Duerk stare each other down in the center of the courtroom.

Connie Brueckner, the lead investigator on the Johnson case for the Missoula Police Department, testifies next. When Paoli cross-examines Brueckner, he implies that she did not do enough to try to find evidence that might have proven Johnson’s innocence. Paoli suggests Detective Brueckner developed an improper friendship with Washburn. Paoli suggests that a protocol reminding Missoula cops to believe a victim of a sexual assault until all the evidence is gathered destroys the objectivity of investigators, but Brueckner denies this. Paoli and Pabst, says Krakauer, had previously filed a motion to dismiss the case based on the new police protocol, saying that the policy to believe a rape occurred when it is reported violates the presumption of innocence. But this second motion to dismiss the case was also denied. The presumption of innocence applies only in the trial of a crime, not in the police investigation.

Summary: Chapter 26

The defense begins to call its witnesses. First is team chaplain Michael McGowan. He testifies that Johnson is a respectful and humble young man, but admits, under cross-examination, that someone with these positive traits is still capable of committing crimes. After McGowan, Jordan Johnson takes the stand. Jordan is quiet and self-possessed and gives background on his relationship with his family. Court is adjourned for the day. The next day Johnson’s testimony is interrupted so that a character witness from Oregon, Pastor Rudy Herr, can give his testimony. He says Jordon is honest and has incredible self-control. After Pastor Herr’s testimony, Johnson re-takes the stand. Kirsten Pabst questions him. He says Washburn never did anything to show she withdrew consent during their sex and only said one thing to him, “Oh, you’re bad,” in what he characterized as an inviting tone. Washburn didn’t seem upset to him afterward, he testifies.

Next, prosecutor Adam Duerk cross-examines Johnson. He focuses on the time during the incident when Johnson was entering Washburn from behind. Johnson admits he had Washburn pinned on the bed. He says the sex seemed consensual to him and Washburn never withdrew consent. Duerk presses Johnson about the message Washburn sent just after the sex, in which she told Steven Green she thought she had just been raped. Johnson acknowledges it was not a normal thing to say. It would make sense if things happened the way Washburn said, Johnson acknowledges, but still denies her version of events. He agrees that a woman can change her mind in the middle of sexual intercourse. Johnson’s testimony ends, and his father, Marty Johnson, testifies next. He says their family is extremely close and that, short of losing a child, this kind of accusation is one of the worst things he can imagine happening to a family.


In Chapter 25, Krakauer shows how lawyers attempt to squeeze witness statements into their own preferred narratives. Though Kirsten Pabst and David Paoli have tried to use aspects of Stephen Green’s previous statements to cast doubt on Cecilia Washburn’s version of events, saying she ate a snack after her encounter with Johnson, Green’s testimony in the courtroom clearly supports the prosecution’s narrative. Green dismisses the motives the defense offers for Washburn’s behavior one by one. According to Green, Washburn was never hurt because Johnson didn’t want to be her boyfriend, she never wanted to be a celebrity, and she behaved from the first day onward in a manner consistent with her claim that she was raped.