With the sentencing of former UCSB soccer player Eric Frimpong drawing near this week, nearly 50 students assembled last night to review the original trial.
Last night’s event – “Frimpong Facts, Was it a Fair Trial?” – was hosted by UCSB’s Black Pioneer Renaissance Organization in the Graduate Student Association Lounge at 6 p.m. Frimpong, a fifth-year UCSB student, was found guilty of raping a fellow UCSB student on Dec. 17 and currently faces a maximum of eight years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28 at which time presiding Judge Brian E. Hill will also review a motion for retrial.
Event organizer Chris Martin, a second-year English and history major, said that last night’s meeting was not intended to influence students’ interpretations of the trial and that it strove only to supply accurate information.
“BPRO is not interested in telling people if [Frimpong] is innocent or guilty,” Martin said. “What is most important is that we want people to make up their minds based on the facts provided tonight.”
Following BPRO’s presentation, Jamahdi Blueford, a second-year political science and Black studies major, said he felt Frimpong’s race directly impacted the outcome of the trial. He cited allegations made at the trial that Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Dept. Detective Daniel Kies used derogatory terms to describe Frimpong during the interrogation process.
“I feel race played a humongous role in the conviction,” Blueford said. “Look at the policeman’s comments immediately after he found out that [Frimpong] was black. If he was of a different ethnicity he would not have been referred to as an ‘Asshole Motherfucker.’ I feel this case was an injustice and he didn’t get a fair trial because he was a black male.”
Brandon Penn, a fourth-year religious studies major, said he also wondered if race was a determinant in the ruling.
“Taking into consideration the preconceived notions and stereotypes of the black male, was Frimpong already criminalized before he walked into the court room and the evidence was presented?” Penn said.
In reaction to a series of claims that race operates in the U.S. legal system, Sara Matthiesen, a fourth-year psychology and philosophy major, also brought up allegations of sexism and unfair treatment of rape victims in the courtroom.
“There are two factors at work, racism in the judicial system and lack of justice for rape survivors,” Matthiesen said. “Injustices in the judicial system are played out on both sides.”
Carol Mosely, director of the Rape Prevention Education Program at UCSB, said she was present at last night’s meeting to speak on behalf of rape victims too intimidated to represent themselves.
“The survivors in this case are having a difficult time on this campus and they are not feeling supported or believed,” Mosely said. “Survivors also don’t tell because they feel they will be blamed. There are ways in which to support Mr. Frimpong without trashing the other person.”
In a closing statement, Martin said that the only positive solution to the current set of circumstances was a retrial of Frimpong.
“Victory in my opinion is that justice is served,” Martin said. “If they prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty, then he should be put beyond bars. Otherwise, he deserves his freedom.”
During the original trial, the prosecution centered its case on DNA evidence found on Frimpong’s scrotum as well as testimony from the victim who was found nearly a year ago with several bruises on her body, vaginal tearing and a bite mark on her cheek.
In response, Frimpong’s defense countered these arguments by questioning the victim’s memory due to her .20 blood alcohol content during the night of her attack. Sanger also questioned the police investigation by pointing out that while the victim’s DNA was found on Frimpong, none of his was found on her body or clothes. Sanger said the police should have investigated the victim’s on-again off-again boyfriend Benjamin Randall whose DNA was found on the victim’s panties. The victim claimed the DNA stemmed from a consensual sex encounter from three days before.