Daniel Smith Rape Trial

Picture this...you're with your friends having a fun night out. You go to a club, have a few drinks, dance and generally have a good time and get pretty tipsy.

After leaving the club you and one of your friends of the opposite gender start fooling around and because inhibitions have been lowered by alcohol, maybe even have intercourse using a condom. Some of your friends in the group saw what was happening, but at that time everyone was just having fun.

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Fast forward to the next day...the woman sobers up and feels embarrassed, ashamed, even humiliated that others saw her having sex. My gosh, she thinks, I'm religious. A devout catholic. She convinces herself that she was raped, and with some friends and family agreeing, she files rape charges against her friend hoping for a quick financial settlement.

This, in my opinion, is what happened on the night of Nov. 1, 2005 at Subic, Philippines to a group of friends that included Daniel Smith, 21, of St. Louis, USA and "Nicole", 23 of Zamboanga, Philippines.

On December 4, 2006 a trial court in Manila, Philippines found Daniel Smith, a Lance Corporal in the US Marines, guilty of rape and sentenced to 40 years in prison. At the same time 3 other US Marines were acquitted of complicity in the case.

Quick Synopsis:

* Smith and Marine Buddies met "Nicole" in Zamboanga during training exercises

* Smith invited "Nicole" to Subic area and paid for her transportation

* November 1, 2005 around 10 pm., Smith and 3 US Marine friends went to the Neptune Bar in Subic and met "Nicole" and her step-sister

* After having a good time at the club, Smith, his 3 Marine friends, "Nicole" and a Filipino driver get in a van and head back to the nearby ship

* Once in the van, according to statements made by the Filipino driver and the 3 Marines, Smith and "Nicole" were in the back of the van, their conversations were normal and they were not arguing

* Smith claims consensual sex occurred in the van at the time, that "Nicole" helped him put on a condom and that "Nicole" was lucid enough to consent to sex

* Nicole files rape charges against Smith and 3 other Marines

* The Filipino driver initially claims to the police, no rape occurred

* 2 days later after intense interrogation and possibly being beaten and threatened by the police, the driver signs a statement claiming that rape did occur in the van

* A few days later the driver recants the written statement, is interviewed on national television by no less than the Vice-President of the Philippines and again claims no rape occurred

* The trial gets underway amid an emotionally charged media frenzy that almost demands a conviction

* Daniel Smith is convicted, 3 other Marines acquitted, the Filipino driver was never charged

* The argument of the judge in making his ruling is that "Nicole" was too drunk to give her consent

Without even being in the courtroom to hear all of the testimony it seems clear that there was an obvious error in logic on the part of the judge. If rape did occur within the small space of the van then it would be impossible for the 3 other Marines and the Filipino driver not to know it was happening, so they must be convicted of complicity. Also, if Nicole was too drunk to give her consent to have sex then how could her identification of Smith be deemed reliable?

Since the Filipino driver was never charged and he has no motivation to lie, he is the only one who could possibly be believed.

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In my opinion, the driver initially told the truth, no rape occurred. Then the police picked him up for questioning, intimidated and most likely beat him, threatened him and his family, and told him to sign a statement. He signed the statement, recanted a few days later and told the truth on national television.

Let's note 2 factors that are present in Philippine culture; embarrassment and confusion. Nicole was embarrassed by what happened, even humiliated. And she was also faced with the prospect that her other American boyfriend would find out what happened. She's confused, and can't decide what to do. The solution? Blame Daniel Smith and the 3 other "bad Americans".

Once the rape charges were filed there was no turning back. The police, the prosecutors, and the media took charge. The Filipino culture is one based on emotion. Filipinos are highly emotional and often times these intense emotions overrule all rational and logical thought. This case was decided before it ever went to trial. The judge, under a tidal wave of societal and emotional pressure, had no choice.

Update: In April 2009, the Supreme Court of the Philippines overturned the conviction of Daniel Smith.

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