For roughly 30 hours over several days, defense lawyers for three former United States Naval Academy football players grilled a female midshipman about her sexual habits.
In a public hearing, they asked the woman, who has accused the three athletes of raping her, whether she wore a bra, how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex and whether she had apologized to another midshipman with whom she had intercourse “for being a ho.”
The aggressive tactics on display this month and last are part of a case that has generated intense public scrutiny and raised alarms about what are called Article 32 proceedings, which help determine whether cases are sent to courts-martial. Article 32 hearings permit questions not allowed in civilian courts and can include cross-examinations of witnesses so intense that legal experts say they frighten many victims from coming forward.
“These have become their own trials,” said Jonathan Lurie, a professor emeritus of legal history at Rutgers University and the author of two books on military justice. “If this is what Article 32 has come to be, then it is time to either get rid of it or put real restrictions on the conduct during them.”