Over the last four years, a Ft. Worth Star-Telegram investigation found, Tarrant County, Tx., grand juries have rejected more than half the acquaintance rape cases presented to them by prosecutors. Some no-bills came in cases like the one where police had obtained incriminating photographs. In others, alleged rapists had confessed. In one no-billed case, police detectives had obtained photographs and a confession. A few years ago, one grand jury rejected every case in which the victim had been drinking, a detective said.
“If you’re telling me there are photos and a confession and there is a no-bill, that’s shocking to me,” said Jennifer Gentile Long, a former prosecutor and director of AEquitas, a Washington-based group that trains prosecutors about sexual assault cases. “Certainly at trial it can be difficult, because myths get in the way. But at a grand jury hearing, when you’re putting forth evidence and putting up elements and there is no defense? Those should be going through.” After learning of the Star-Telegram’s findings, Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon assigned prosecutors to analyze the 141 no-bills, attempting to determine “why some of them were problem children, problem cases.” In many cases, the victim was uncooperative or changed her story, Shannon said. In others, the victim and alleged perpetrator had just met — cases that the district attorney said did not qualify as acquaintance rape. Consent was often an issue. Prosecutors could not determine why several others were no-billed, Shannon said.