With the rise of the #MeToo movement, it feels like the tides are shifting in favor of victims of sexual abuse. In the fall of 2017, dozens of women came forward with sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. And on January 24th, after more than 150 women testified against him, disgraced Team USA doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing his patients. But sadly, even with greater visibility surrounding the issue of sexual assault, some victims are still being denied justice.
We recently learned about the case of Emilie Morris, whose death resulted in a Missouri court discarding her sexual abuse case, despite a taped confession from her abuser.
According to BuzzFeed News, which reported the story today, March 16th, Morris was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by her track coach in the ’90s. In 2013, Morris managed to tape a conversation with her coach, Jim Wilder, in which he admitted to sexually abusing her when she was under age. Wilder was later arrested and charged with six counts of statutory sodomy because of the tape, but the former coach refused to appear in court. When Morris passed away in 2014, the charges were dropped despite Wilder’s taped confession.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Sheila Whirley told BuzzFeed News that they were unable to continue with Morris’s case due to the Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment, which requires defendants (in this case, Wilder) to be given the right to confront their accusers. An accuser’s death also makes statements made out of court more difficult to use as evidence.
Morris’s case demonstrates just one of the many flaws in our criminal justice system when it comes to cases of sexual assault. Convicted rapist Brock Turner only served three months of a six-month prison sentence before being released. And in 2015, USA Today found that more than 70,000 rape kits had gone untested. And this most recent revelation makes us wonder who the laws are designed to protect, as Wilder — a confirmed sexual predator — is now free to walk and still possess his teaching license.
For all the progress we’ve made in recent months, our country needs to do better, because women like Emilie Morris deserve justice.