A Saraland, Alabama, woman who filed a rape complaint after a 4th of July date turned ugly was ordered to provide a urine sample for a drug test in Mobile County District Court on July 9. The order came after Judge Delano Palughi ruled favorably on a defense motion asking the court to force the accuser to submit to a drug test.
Defense attorney Rick Yelverton, representing 26-year-old Emanuel DeWitt, implied that the woman could have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the alleged rape. Yelverton argued that if the woman was on drugs when the incident occurred, the test results could go “to her character and to her ability to recall what happened that night.”
But while a urine sample from the woman was provided, it has not been tested. After hearing furious objections from prosecutors, Mobile Circuit Court Judge Joseph “Rusty” Johnston ruled on July 25 that the sample would not be tested now, but would be turned over to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Johnston refused to order the urine sample destroyed, saying he wanted it preserved as possible evidence in the case.
Prosecutor Ashley Rich, lamenting that such a precedent could deter other victims from coming forward, moved to have Johnston overturn Palughi’s earlier order. “The victim is not on trial here,” she wrote in her motion to vacate the order, “and the fact of whether or not the victim was under the influence of controlled substances at the time of the rape has no relevance to whether or not she was raped.”
At a news conference outside the courtroom, Rich added that forcing a victim of a crime to take a drug test “sends a message to other victims.” A nurse or other state employee, for example, might not report a crime if she feared being tested for drugs and possibly losing her job. “We’re very concerned,” she said.