The not guilty verdict for Jordan Johnson’s rape trial is consistent with the result of most acquaintance rapes tried by jury. Because it is so difficult to prove that someone withdrew consent during sexual intercourse, few prosecutors are able to show that a rape took place beyond a reasonable doubt. Fred Van Valkenberg’s comment that a “not guilty” verdict is not an “innocence” verdict gets right to the point. The standard of evidence required in U.S. criminal court is very high, especially for rape cases, where the physical evidence of rape can look extremely similar to physical evidence of consensual sex. Unfortunately, the comments made by Missoulians on online forums after the trial illustrate just how uneducated many Americans continue to be about rape and the U.S. legal system. It does not follow that, because Johnson was found not guilty, Washburn falsely accused him of rape.
Jury member Joanne Fargo’s comments to Krakauer about the jury’s deliberation process are illuminating. Fargo shares many of Krakauer’s opinions about the theatricality and inappropriateness of Paoli and Pabst’s defense. It remains unclear whether the one strong doubt for the jury—that Johnson may not have known that Washburn did not give consent—seemed more compelling because of the backdrop of Paoli and Pabst’s many false and implausible arguments for what took place. Though Fargo shows herself to be extremely well informed about acquaintance rape and the legal system, she reiterates Krakauer’s concerns about the prevalence of rape myths in America and the need for better education on the subject.