November 11th, 2017

Let me tell you a story about corroborating witnesses

[NOTE: Boy, I seem to be in a legal mood today. See previous post.]

I hear a lot of people saying that the 14-year-old accuser of Roy Moore must be telling the truth because her mother backs up her story, or because there are other people to back up her story or at least some small part of it. In other words, what’s known as “corroborating witnesses.”

“Witnesses” doesn’t mean “people who saw the act itself.” It can mean—and in this case does mean—-“people who were told the story (or some elements of the story) by the accuser then or later.” Usually it also means “and are willing to testify about it in court,” not just to tell it to a newspaper reporter (and sometimes remain nameless).

Well, let me tell you a little story. Many many moons ago, the divorce law in Massachusetts was pretty strict. No-fault divorce hadn’t yet come to the state. I’ve written about the situation before:

In fault divorces one person was the plaintiff and sued the other, alleging a marital offense; the other often countersued and alleged a different offense on the part of the original plaintiff. .

One of the marital offenses which constituted grounds for divorce in Massachusetts was called cruel and abusive treatment. Ordinarily that meant some sort of physical abuse—in other words, hitting or even pushing. In practice, the way it went was this: the lawyer would ask the client (typically a woman) if her husband had ever hit her. If she answered “yes,” then the lawyer would ordinarily ask whether she had told this to anyone right afterward or had shown anyone the bruises. If the answer was in the affirmative than the lawyer would ask if that person would be willing to swear to this in court.

That was because a corroborating witness was required in order to receive a divorce on those grounds. The woman’s word wasn’t enough.

This potentially made it very difficult to get a divorce, even if it was true that a woman had been physically abused by her husband. How many people immediately race off to show someone bruises, or to tell someone the tale? Many did, but many didn’t, particularly back then.

So women lied. And their friends and relatives lied. Often; very very often. And lawyers indirectly encouraged them to lie by letting them know what was needed.

If the woman initially had said, “No, my husband may have been a rotten bastard, but at least he never hit me,” then the lawyer would tell her that was actually a pity, because if he had—or if he had even so much as pushed or shoved her forcibly—it would constitute grounds for divorce if she had a corroborating witness.

The lawyer hadn’t told her to lie; that would be unethical. But funny how many women suddenly “remembered” a big big shove. And funny how many came up with a mother or sister or aunt or cousin or friend who had witnessed it or seen the bruise or heard the story right after the event.

Funny, but understandable. The motive was to get a divorce.

And there are motives to make a false accusations against public figures and to get a bunch of corroborating witnesses, too. That certainly doesn’t mean the present accusations are false; they may indeed be true, as I’ve said many times. But corroborating witnesses fail to move my truth-meter all that much.

34 Responses to “Let me tell you a story about corroborating witnesses”

  1. AesopFan Says:

    The current story on George Takei fits the bill for this post.
    Alleged victim told people reasonably soon after the alleged assault (much more serious than anything Moore is accused of), but that still doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth.

    “The alleged incident happened in 1981. Takei said the events “simply did not occur.””

    * * *
    If Moore is guilty until proven innocent, so is Takei.

  2. Sergey Says:

    That is why I am very, very skeptical about anything women say. Eventually, lies are their last line of defense, often the only defense, and the culture is very lenient about women’s lies, at least much more lenient than about men’s lies. And half of the women hardly can discern reality from their fantasies, and the other half does not feel compulsion to do so, unlike men who usually do.

  3. steve walsh Says:

    Given your description, I have to say the word of a corroborating witness is worthless to the effort to determine the truth.

  4. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    […] neo-neocon explain corroborating witnesses […]

  5. neo-neocon Says:


    If you believe men don’t lie a great deal too, then you are hopelessly naive. I have no idea who lies more, but my observation is tbat there’s more than enough lying to go around.

  6. LindaF Says:

    I have to agree about women lying. Men lie about events that will put them in good repute with those hearing about them – dates/scoring with women, how much money they make, how well they are doing in their job, how accomplished they are at sports.

    Women lie to hurt specific people. They don’t care whether their lies make them look bad. The goal is to injure another – can be male or female.

    Women will also double-down on their lies – if challenged, they will up the lie. A man will, if confronted with evidence rejecting his lie, often confess the truth (sociopaths and psychopaths excluded).

    Women will easily get other women to buy into their tales, and, if prodded, agree that they, too, saw that awful assault, and add even more details.

    Men will not defend their friends. At best, they will change the subject.

  7. Frog Says:

    Linda F speaks as a woman.
    Although men will indeed defend their friends, at least on occasion!
    In my experience, women have longer anger memories. They are also connected by some kind of wireless system that lights up with outrage, as we presently see with the topic of “inappropriate touching” 30 yrs ago. Women molto agitato everywhere.

  8. Sergey Says:

    I also do not know who lies more, but I do know that honesty was cultivated as a distinctive gentleman’s virtue and that women always got a slack in this department. And from human evolution perspective, how else women could prosper in man-dominated societies except for by lies and manipulation?

  9. Sergey Says:

    What is seen as inappropriate now was commonly acceptable 30 years ago. Sexual mores evolved very quickly during this period in the opposite directions for men and women: more puritanical for men and more licentious for women.

  10. Frog Says:

    True, but that was after the universal, sustained licentiousness of both sexes in the immediate post-Pill era of the 1960s. An era from which we have never recovered.

    What we are now witnessing is the consequence of the demographic shift to a female majority, with women out-living men.

    Femaleness was after all the fundamental basis of the Hillary campaign. An ugly and empty campaign:
    “Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” [Michelle]Obama told the audience”

    Look at the ads, both print and TV, of today’s male clothing models: they are universally thin, amuscular reeds, wimps; the source of protection to NO female and to NO nuclear family.
    And it is a woman’s right to murder, or have murdered, her own in-utero child. More than 60 million American babies to date.

  11. Annie Says:

    Weinstein, Spacey, and now Louis CK, conservatives have been quick to render judgement. But, if it is a conservative representative, suddenly the timing smells fishy. The smell test is really about Moore’s character, and that stinks rotten.

    Always interesting how conservatives revert back to legalisms as a defense. Clintons have mastered that art, only they did it so often nobody trusts them.

    Naturally, by legal standards, aside from statute of limitations, this is far from a slam dunk case – so the argument serves to murky the waters.

    But, Moore is not on trial. He is running for office, so there is plenty of room beyond *a shadow of a doubt* for the public’s judgement.

    What a poor, foolish choice Alabama conservatives made. If Moore is what conservatism must rally behind, then it is going down.

    Heads democrats win – Tails democrats win. Forget any major
    conservative agenda going forward.

  12. Sergey Says:

    Annie, what would you say if he will win nevertheless? His base simply does not believe all these accusations, and have good reasons to do so.

  13. Sergey Says:

    Weinstein, Spacey, and now Louis CK confessed in their misconduct, while Moore adamantly denies all accusations. That is the real difference between him and them, not their political position.

  14. Frog Says:

    Annie is a lib who occasionally comments here.
    As to the Clintons, Bill’s sexual predation, Hillary’s enabling, his adjudication of perjury and revocation of his law license, their gross vilations of all moral, ethical and legal standards for the past 20+ years,, what say you, Annie?
    You are willing to lynch a man based on an allegation about a putative event thirty-eight years ago? That is pretty Hillary-esque.
    Your standards are extremely low.

  15. TommyJay Says:

    Neo tells us of the unreliability of corroborating witnesses. Also, eye witness testimony in rape and murder cases, while better, is not great either.

    We also know that polygraph tests have had demonstrated failures. The failures that I know of, are ones where the phrases “stone cold killer” or drug user applies. But it seems extreme to me, the extent to which the legal community has absolutely banned the discussion of polygraph results. Judges can and do routinely give instructions to juries about a variety of equivocal circumstances. We’re not at a courtroom stage here, but lawyers are involved.

    In the community of police detectives it is not uncommon to ask a suspect to take a polygraph. If he/she readily agrees to the test, then frequently the detective doesn’t bother. The real test was the ready acquiescence.

    Wouldn’t that be nice in this case? But no charges have been filed, if I have the story correct. How convenient. Speaks volumes.

    Of course, technology has already been partially developed for a vastly improved lie detector, but I don’t expect to see any use of it in my lifetime.

  16. Frog Says:

    As I understand it, polygraph exams are not admissible as evidence of anything in courts due to the high frequency of false positive AND false negatives.
    In the event of a more highly reliable lie detection test, to which party in the present matter do you think it would be first administered, and the results then announced? The suspected liar, or the target of the suspected lie?

  17. Artfldgr Says:

    The crazy ex who faked her murder and later robbed a bank tried that… but sadly, for her, i had made sure i gave myself an order of protection and had a female friend close the last 100 yards and pick up the kid and bring him… nothing closer than that, and doubly nothing behind a door…

    being questioned for weeks for a murder that never happens
    then losing your family over it and the other things
    well… better not to bother with anyone if that’s how things are when they go belly up… cant bank on no belly up, can you?
    MGTOW, thats what its for..

    the blowback from the recent spate of get em cause there is no downside, is going to really really be interesting and not correctable for a very long time… (any men here willing to not tweak their talk to their son about how anything they do with a woman, or be alone with one in questionable circumstances, could lead to their being ruined later in life with no way to prove or disprove anything? its not enough that for a young lad its like putting you winky in a salad shooter.. is it?)

  18. n.n Says:

    Actually, American conservatives are not Pro-Choice, so despite people taking notice of liberal ideological divergence, there is no call for a baby trial. The constitution guarantees Americans due process, and implicitly a presumption of innocence.

  19. n.n Says:

    Normalization of a robust courtship regime would mitigate the occurrence of ignorance after the fact; day, week, decade after rape culture; and denial of women’s agency, and human rights, by placing conception before Choice.

  20. AesopFan Says:

    Still taking no position for or against either Moore or the primary accuser, as I do not know which one is telling the truth, and “neither do you” as Scott Adams would say.
    More to the point, at this late date, neither do they.
    The literature on the fallibility of memory is huge, both in psychology per se and in legal studies.
    The ability of people to convince themselves that something did or didn’t happen, or happened this way and not that way, is generally unrelated to age, sex, social standing, or just about anything else other than being human.
    I used to rail against my brother because he was always claiming something happened differently to the way I remembered it, sometimes later on the same day, and thought for years that he was just a big fat liar; eventually, I realized that he really did not remember what I did. I’m not any happier about the discrepancies, but I understand them.

    Isaac Asimov once said (I’m recalling an old radio interview here, so maybe I’m must making it up 😉 –) that he would often tell a story (very amusing IIRC) concerning his first wife. When he wrote his autobiography, he decided he had better check his (voluminous) journals before he wrote it for publication, and discovered he had been telling it wrong for years.
    And he had NO motive to lie or change the details; they just slipped away in his memory and he substituted different ones.

    Regardless of what Moore or his accusers remember, there is quite literally no way to determine, after nearly 40 years, which of them is correct.

    There is nothing to go on but circumstantial evidence, and, right now, it is thin to the point of transparency.

  21. n.n Says:

    Moore adamantly denies all accusations

    Not only is he standing his ground, but he is confronting the publications of the accusers, their mainstream publicists, the bipartisan baby hunters, and hearsay witnesses directly. He is aware of his rights and expects due process, and is rightly wary of trial by press (i.e. organized speech suppression via megaphone, bullhorn, really).

    That said, based on his known history, it seems that the most likely explanation is discovery and a courtship cut short. Also, dating perilously close to the legal/consensual divide that has been advocated by social liberals.

  22. AesopFan Says:

    The complaint that people who are defending (or at least not pre-emptively defenestrating) Moore were quick enough to throw rocks at the tumbrel carrying Weinstein & Friends has been fairly answered: their pattern of behavior was widely known, their depredations covered many years extending from the distant past to recent times, and they confessed.

    At this point, there is neither evidence nor assertion (SFAIK) that Moore exploited underage girls (although one report I saw featured a claim from a contemporary of his at that time that he was known to date girls between the age of consent and his own, which is at a minimum 10 years younger); no one has alleged any improprieties after the couple of years in question, and certainly not after he married; and he denies the claims of the underaged accuser.

    The GOP could quite rightly decry the alleged behavior while reserving the personal rock-throwing until there was either definitive evidence (for or against either; something might surface, although I think the probability is low) or one of them confessed to lying.

    The GOP have jumped to judge him guilty-by-accusation, despite many years (and some success) in fighting the Title IX imposition of “tribunals” (not courts) that have done the same thing to college men, on the sole word of an accuser who is sometimes (pretty often, it seems) wrong.
    The college administrators in those cases have been rightly chastised for failing to protect any fundamental rights of the defendants, even within that due-process-lacking non-legal context.

    What in the world is wrong with choosing not to add “friendly fire” to an enemy barrage before you know that there is something that needs shooting at?

    If the electorate decides to hold their judgement on the alleged crimes in abeyance while voting for Moore to “maintain” the seat until a court can rule, what’s the problem?

    Or are we going to just go along with the Queen of Hearts at Alice’s trial?

    I feel an urge to reread Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, or maybe Durrenmatt’s “Der Besuch der alten Dame.”

    PS in case anyone here has forgotten, it’s a well-established practice of the Democrats to elect and retain in office people who have actually been found guilty of a crime by an actual real-live court.
    If Moore is indeed guilty, he can be turned out of office after the verdict.

    “Say what you will about Roy Moore, his name has never appeared on the flight logs of the Lolita Express. On the contrary, he has been married for more than 30 years and the only act of moral turpitude alleged against him dates, ostensibly, from the 1970s.

    Some say that Moore’s case is different, because he is a Republican, and Republicans are held to a higher standard. That is true as a statement of fact, but it is not a principle to which Republicans should stipulate. The Senate seat at issue is important. When Jeff Sessions ran for re-election in 2014, the Democrats didn’t even field a candidate against him. For the Democrats to steal that seat now, by recruiting a troubled woman to tell a 38-year-old story that is probably false, would be outrageous.

    I am not a fan of Judge Moore. I would not have voted for him in the primary election. But control of the Senate is important. It is far better that Moore represent Alabama for the unexpired three years of Sessions’ term than that the seat go to a Democrat on the basis of a smear.

  23. AesopFan Says:

    should have been “additional assertions” —

  24. Frog Says:

    Right behind the claimant of deeds by Moore 38 yrs ago stand the RINO holier-than-though Republicans like McConnell.
    They are so full of their own BS that they know not when to simply hold their tongues. Their sanctimony just bubbles out of them uncontrollably.
    The GOP is in its own way just as disgusting as the Donkey Party, and that is a remarkable achievement.

  25. Dave Says:

    Defending a man’s rights to due process and a chance to defend his dignity while being suspicious of an accusation full of question marks with dubious timing that clearly demonstrated political motivations, is not condoning sexual assault against minors. Only liberals and their useful idiots would often bring up stupid equivalences to discredit legitimate concerns from the other side like that.

  26. Frog Says:

    Always follow the money, no?
    The Washington Post is now 100% owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the three richest men in America, with a net worth of something like $93 Billion and growing daily.
    So the WaPo is now his mouthpiece. The WaPo bottom line
    and the size of its readership simply do not any longer matter.
    Recall also that Bezos has purchased the old Textile Museum buildings in DC, 25,000 square feet of future residence.

  27. Annie Says:

    Due process has nothing to do with it – this is not a court case. Focusing on the legalistic is a misdirection. The Clintons mastered being legalistic. Hillary’s career was one long series of these misdirections – worked for her in 2016? Clinton Foundation? Where’s the proof? What about her rights to due process and dignity? People will go to the polls and will have to make a judgement one way or another, lacking clear-cut evidence.

    Clinton found out character is an important factor, and Moore’s is one where these accusations tend to stick. Even Breitbart has a tough time dismissing the 14 year old’s case as one timed by her to inflict maximum damage – she was not even seeking to make her story public. Clintons perfected demonizing and questioning the timing and motives of accusers – “Drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park” Were you fooled then by this? Or did you give the accuser the benefit of the doubt? Why?

    Alabama is strongly Republican so Moore’s lucky may still get elected on a partisan basis, but don’t expect he wins by a wide margin. Expect many who were already skeptical on Moore to definitely stay home, and the Democrats to be energized.

    So he gets to be Senator, but what will that accomplish? One more vote finally moving Trump’s big limbo agenda forward? Or, one more hold out and grand stander?

  28. Dave Says:

    Due process is everything because you are asking someone to step down based on something that has yet been proven to be true. This due process is not court due process, this due process is rather someone should able to have his side of story heard or we just get every candidate kick out because of some unproven thing that happened 40 years ago. Did Bill Clinton resign because of accusations against him? Did John McCain resign because of accusations against him. Due process is not a matter is said by some stupid people who wants

  29. Dave Says:

    his candidate to win no matter what it takes to take down the other guy, democrats are garbage

  30. GRA Says:

    Neo, you were in the family therapy sector for a number of years, how do you respond to different trauma reactions on the grounds of memory loss?

  31. Dave Says:

    many of the past politicians who stepped down before going through a court of law did so because the press was able to provide indisputable proof that the candidate would definitely be found guilty when get taken to court, and the court process was merely ceremonial like Anthony Weiner. Did Moore know the girl’s age, you say his knowledge of her age doesn’t matter but I do, if he immediately stopped their relationship right after learning her real age then that is definitely a reasonable defense that he wasn’t taking advantage of her as a minor, he thought she was an adult and did the absolutely honorable and right thing stopping the act right after learning her true age, where is the crime?

  32. Dave Says:

    Roy Moore was more honorable than 99% of the democrats, he honored the girl’s request, he did what the left has been preaching for decades that no means no, tell that to Bill Clinton.

  33. neo-neocon Says:


    His knowledge or lack of knowledge of her age doesn’t matter legally.

  34. Annie Says:

    Dave – what does Clinton not resigning really prove? Did you think Clinton innocent? You seem to imply you thought he was not by making that statement.

    You choose to focus on the legalities but think back a bit – you probably were practically sure of both Clintons guilt of various unethical if not suspected illegal actions. Yet you did’t have real proof did you? How did you come to that? Or you were that rare exception who said you want to give them their due process before you judge them and didn’t use any of that against them?

    Alabama voters HAVE TO make a judgement about Moore without all the facts. What is it going to be based on? He has a big R on his hat, and he will receive some minimum partisan support. For the rest there is Character! There is a long list easily found on Moore that bring his character into question. We already know he doesn’t respect the rule of law – so much for honor. The only question in those Alabamans minds is how likely is Moore to have conducted himself this way given his character, and are the claims really completely without credibility given Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, and the recent watershed of claims that were held back or if made were similarly dismissed for years? It was such a secret that WAPO knew just who to contact? Remember, this former 14 yo girl wasn’t coming forward. It was known enough.

    Innocent or not these things are not easily dismissed. It only adds to the shadow of his character. Begs the question – Is he really worth the support? His performance in the Senate will be more disruptive than in getting Trump’s agenda going. If he were really honorable and principled maybe. He looks like yet another blustering grandstander. Having another R in the Senate should be an add not a subtract.

    Moore was already a lose lose proposition. Doubling down doesn’t help. Applie legalese and defend his questionable honor, just don’t expect anyone outside your partisan bubble to give him any credibility. Unless you happen to be that rare painite (you and Sean Hannity) who internally faithfully applies the same standards across the board the way you earnestly express them here and expect others to. Until people learn to pick winners with good character and real principles the GOP will continue to lose wasting time and trust defending the undefendable.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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