Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
August 23, 2011

DISTRICT ATTORNEY VANCE STATEMENT

The Following Are Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

“The law in our country requires a high standard of proof for conviction in criminal cases:  to deprive a defendant of his liberty, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  For generations, this standard has protected all who come before the criminal justice system, regardless of position or power.  For generations, that standard has governed our prosecution decisions in this Office.

“This morning, we moved to dismiss the indictment against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  Although the case was not simple or straightforward, the reasoning behind our decision is:  as prosecutors, if we are not persuaded — beyond a reasonable doubt — that a crime has been committed, based on the evidence we have, we cannot ask a jury to convict.  This is because our job is to seek justice, not convictions at any cost.

“The crimes charged in the indictment required the People to prove that Strauss-Kahn engaged in a sexual encounter using force and without the complainant’s consent.  Proof of these two critical elements — force and lack of consent — rests solely on the complaining witness’ testimony.  But her testimony was fatally damaged for several key reasons, which are outlined in the document we filed in court yesterday.

“Over the past several months, the prosecutors working on this case conducted a thorough investigation.  They interviewed many witnesses, and reviewed voluminous records.  I believe throughout they have been utterly professional under difficult circumstances.

“After a careful and deliberative review of all the evidence, this team followed the facts where they led, and had to make a decision.  I believe the decision we made is absolutely the right one, legally and ethically.

“As prosecutors, we don’t work in a world where we expect or require perfect witnesses.  The tens of thousands of victims who come to our office each year come from varied and often difficult circumstances, and sometimes with imperfect pasts.  If we are convinced they are truthful about the crimes committed against them, and will tell the truth at trial, we will ask a jury to consider their testimony to prove a crime.  If we are not convinced, we cannot, should not and do not take the case to a jury. 

“Seeking justice for sex crimes victims, and protecting immigrants, are among the highest priorities in this Office, and they are among my highest priorities as DA.  And, in these matters, this office has never shied away from tough cases and we never will.

“But every case rises and falls on its own merits, and we have to judge each case by its own unique set of facts.  We should not blindly advocate for one side, or be afraid to assess honestly whether we can meet our burden of proof.  Because when prosecutors fail to follow the facts where they lead, justice becomes secondary to victory.

“In dismissing the case today, we believe — and I believe — this is the right decision; and the one that best serves the true administration of justice.”