The Steubenville, Ohio rape case that divided a town will begin this week, as the prosecution issued its opening statements before the court. The controversial case centers on two high school boys accused of raping another student who was semi-conscious; other students took photos and videos of the ordeal and posted them online, causing further outrage.
Attorney Walter Madison has said that his argument will center on the girl's actions, or lack thereof, the evening the rape allegedly occurred.
"There's an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices," Madison told The Cleveland Trader. "She didn't affirmatively say no. The person who is the accuser here is silent just as she was that night, and that's because there was consent."
It's a slam against the young woman who was reportedly assaulted while she was half-conscious and drunk. The young woman's physical and mental state are at the center of the defense's strategy.
"The state doesn't have to prove that she was flat-lined," Associate Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter reportedly told the judge in October. "Everybody agreed she's puking. She's puking on herself. People have to help her walk. She can't talk. She's stumbling."
However, "a victim doesn't have to resist or say the word no for a rape to occur," The Trader pointed out, referring to Cleveland law. That could be crucial to the defense's argument, especially as they argue that the girl could not give her consent for the sexual act and was taken advantage of.
"You have to show [the jury] this wasn't a mistake or misunderstanding, it was a decision to assault a victim," Jennifer Gentile Long, director of AEquitas, told The Trader. "You shouldn't be in danger of being raped when you get sick. Nice people, they get you help."
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, stand accused of raping the unnamed victim during a party. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until they are 21. Both young men have been under house arrest while awaiting trial.
Conflicting stories between the boys and the victim have caused outrage and a division within the small town. Outside hacker group Anonymous even staged a protest on the steps of the town's courthouse in order to try and speak for the victim, who has had to have police protection after receiving death threats.