When defense lawyer Jay Clarke finished his impassioned summation to the jury in a sensational Vancouver rape trial last month, he was promptly spat upon by a female spectator. Clarke, in his zeal to obtain an acquittal for his client, a wealthy Vancouver businessman charged with raping his real estate agent, had just told the British Columbia Supreme Court jury a “funny story” about another rape trial, with the punchline: “Hang onto your hat, baby, I’m going to f--you till your ears fall off.” Several members of the nine-man, three-woman jury did laugh. But that did not stop them, after 10 hours of deliberations spread over two days, from grimly finding George Pappajohn guilty. Pappajohn, 38, a slim, elegantly dressed man with real estate holdings in Vancouver and California, almost collapsed when he
heard the verdict. After he was sentenced by Mr. Justice Samuel Toy to three years in prison, he said shakily: “My lord, I’d like to say that I’m innocent.”
Many of the spectators filing out of the hot crowded courtroom for the last time were much more subdued than they had been throughout the 10-day trial. The testimony had caused a sensation in Vancouver, a city still small enough to feed on—and fan— en masse the more gossipy aspects of a case that had everything: an accused who was no animal-in-the-bushes rapist but an apparently well-respected member of the Vancouver business community (albeit one who practised the rather esoteric pleasures of sexual bondage) and, as plaintiff, a 37-year-old real estate agent who, in her anger and frustration at what she felt was the indifference of the Crown prosecutors to her case, sought to make it as public as possible. By writing letters of protest to various politicians and one female journalist she succeeded, and a cause célèbre was bom. Representatives of feminist groups monitored the trial, as did prominent female politicians including Liberal MP Simma Holt, New Democratic MLA Rosemary Brown and Vancouver alderman Darlene Marzari.
As much as they were determined to give the woman in question moral support, the politicians and feminist activists were also there for the general purpose of assessing how the new legislation governing
rape trials is working. Introduced in March, 1976, Bill C-71 decreed, among other things, that a woman’s past sexual history could not be brought up cavalierly at a rape trial. Nevertheless, most of the women present found the trial was still a sordid ordeal for the woman: her character was impugned, she was called a “Lady Macbeth” and an “actress” by the defense, and she was still subject to what the feminists thought were cheap shots during crossexamination. “I have a lot of respect for her,” said rape relief worker Megan Ellis, “but I don’t know if I could do what she is doing.”
Although the rape trial was seen as “typical” by rape relief workers who maintain that in most cases the woman is casually acquainted with the man before the assault, the atmosphere in the courtroom was anything but normal. As the trial progressed, it took on a bizarre schizophrenic quality. There were “his people” and “her people” (“almost like a wedding,” recalled the plaintiff after it was over). His people were, for the most part, flashily dressed, the wellcoiffed women in their Diane Von Furstenberg dresses, the men in Pierre Cardin shirts. Her people, the feminists and politicians, sat closer to the front, and on several occasions reacted so strongly to evidence that the jury complained to the deputy sheriff. Day after day they all sat riveted as the principals gave their testimony. She maintained that on August 4, 1976, after
lunch in a downtown restaurant, she drove with Pappajohn to his Shaughnessy home, which she was trying to sell, and that, after they entered the house, he shoved her into a bedroom and repeatedly raped her, tying her hands behind her back and gagging her. He told the jury that after drinking a substantial amount during lunch, they had necked in the living room, and that she had consented to sexual intercourse, and had only “freaked out” when he introduced a bit of bondage as “a visual erotic stimulant” to sex. They both agreed she had run naked from his home, ending up on the doorstep of a nearby home for convalescing priests.
Pappajohn told the court the woman had “given me an indication she wanted to be submissive,” while she claimed Pappajohn had said he “was trying to break me.” In the end, the jury chose to believe the woman, who, in the words of Crown Counsel Alan Filmer, had been “an independent lady who bugged Mr. Pappajohn.” The incident, he said, had been a matter of “domination, submission, possession and control.”
Lawyers for Pappajohn announced immediately they would appeal the verdict. One of the grounds they cited was the fact that the judge did not warn the jury it would be unsafe to convict on uncorroborated testimony. This, however, appears to be a direct challenge to the new legislation which allows the woman’s testimony to be uncorroborated. After spending a weekend in city jail, Pappajohn was released on $ 15,000 bail and could expect to enjoy several months of freedom before his appeal would be heard. In the meantime, the woman indicated she did not consider the case closed with the guilty verdict: three days later she launched a lawsuit against Pappajohn, claiming damages from a “criminal assault.” (She testified in court that she had made $4,000 a month selling real estate but had given up most of her work since the incident.) The lawsuit startled many people in the legal community. “We had discussed this in law school, but I’ve never heard of a woman suing a rapist,” said one lawyer. “You can look for a counterclaim of malicious prosecution and libel,” responded Pappajohn’s lawyer Jay Clarke.
The woman also took the unorthodox step of appearing—in silhouette to protect her anonymity—in an interview on a local television station in which she urged rape victims to either go through with a trial or “go home and get a gun and go out and shoot him.” She also said there was no real justice for rape victims, MP Simma Holt agreed: “I’ve been going to rape trials since I was 21—and nothing’s changed. We need to improve the system but nobody really knows how. All I know is that if he hadn’t been found guilty, she would have been, and that’s not right.” JUDITH TIMSON
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