I'm glad I wasn't on the jury that had to decide whether Terrence Gatling and Lloyd Irvin Jr. were guilty of gang-raping a 17-year-old Hampton University freshman.
Although the jurors found Gatling guilty of forcible sodomy, there was not enough evidence to convict either man of rape.
Still, when the three-day rape trial ended Monday, the defendants had revealed too much about themselves to be let off the hook for what happened Oct. 7 in Gatling's apartment.
On that evening a 17-year-old girl agreed to go to dinner with a group of male college students she barely knew. Then she agreed to go to an apartment with them for a party. Somewhere along the line she drank some booze.
By the end of the night, at least seven men had had sex with her. Neither Gatling, who is 21, nor Irvin, who is 20, tried to talk any of them out of it. Instead, they joined in. Or tried.
Irvin was saved by the fact that the jury believed he was impotent when it was his turn.
The rape trial was argued on the same turf as most rape trials: The girl, 5 feet 2 inches tall and 98 pounds, said she was forced to submit to the men's sexual advances. She said when she struggled with one of them, he hit her in the mouth. A medical report showed that her mouth was bruised.
The men said she was a willing participant in an orgy. Lawyers for Irvin and Gatling called witnesses who claimed they heard the girl encourage the men having sex with her.
The defendants also claimed that one of the first men to have sex with her came out of the bedroom yelling, "She's a freak. She's a freak."
Irvin and Gatling apparently took that to mean the 17-year-old was a nymphomaniac.
My question is: What difference does that make?
Does it justify being the seventh guy into the bedroom, or, for that matter, the first?
The jury didn't really address that.
"It was an emotional trial," one of the jurors, Barry Spigel, told me. "But we did a good job of getting rid of our own separate emotions and considering the evidence. The jury felt that there was reasonable doubt of whether a rape had occurred."
"I feel the girl was raped," said Bessie Singleton, another juror. "But the room where this happened was dark, and with all that was going on, it was unclear who was doing what."
"It's not over in my mind," Paul Hoyt, a third juror, confided. "These kinds of trials never are. You hope you call it correctly. I don't know what else you can do. We prayed to God for some guidance. I don't think anybody got any great revelations."
Without divine intervention, the trial turned on legal definitions. That's the only fair way, I know, but in this case it doesn't seem like enough.
Irvin walked free, not because he did the right thing and refused to have sex with a 17-year-old. He testified that he wanted to have intercourse with her but couldn't.