West Virginia defense lawyer Ed ReBrook had a difficult case in representing Thomas H. Gravely, 31, who was accused of raping Charleston prostitutes. However, critics charge that he made a difficult case worse by calling no witnesses and using highly offensive terms to describe the victims.
Gravely was a midget football coach of the Twin City Miners of Marmet and is the father of five children. He was accused of a pattern of sexual assaults on 15-20 prostitutes during which he would threaten them with a knife and force them to have sex.
ReBrook decided that rhetorical attacks would serve Gravely better than testimonial accounts. He referred to the victims as nothing more than “tramps” and “whores” and insisted that “[y]ou cannot rape the willing.” ReBrook told the jury that the victims “got in those automobiles with the intention of having sex for money” and should not be considered the same as women in their own lives. He stated “I would be horrified if any of the women in my life were raped, but I’m talking about decent, honorable women. Not whores who have sex with many, many men for money.” He insisted “[t]hey are not like your wife, your girlfriend or your daughter. They are street tramps. And what happened to them was, at least in part, their fault.
Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach objected to the argument, but Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman refused and ReBrook continued: “They are whores. That is a perfectly usable word in the English language. . . .Finding this man guilty of rape lessens the dignity of every other woman. What they have done is turn sex into something disgusting.”
Perhaps not quite as disgusting as the jury found his argument. They convicted Gravely of five counts of sexual assault on three prostitutes in 2007 and 2008.
This could make for an interesting ineffective counsel claim. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that even the most obnoxious and counterproductive arguments are still tactical decisions — rather than denials of effective counsel. As objectionable as the jury may have found this bizarre argument, the courts routinely refuse to second-guess such tactical choices made by counsel. Bad tactical decisions are generally not enough for ineffective counsel. It is particularly difficult to show under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), that the lawyer’s actions not only fell below an objective standard of reasonableness (which would be satisfied here) but that there is a reasonable probability that, if counsel had performed adequately, the trial would have been different. Given the failure to present witnesses and the testimony of the victims, it would be a difficult case to make under the Strickland standard.
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26 thoughts on “West Virginia Lawyer Tells Jury that Raped Prostitutes Were Not Like Their Mothers and Daughters — Nothing More Than “Whores” and “Tramps””
You only know part of the story. My client would NOT discuss the case with me. Even when the prosecutor showed his vidotaped confession, he denied that he was the person on the tape. He had no alibi for any of the dozens of rapes. He couldn’t place himself at work or anywhere else during even one of these episodes. The only witnesses available were character witnesses, whom the prosecutor would have destroyed. I had not alternative but to attack.
Even prostitutes have the right to say “no”. The question here was did they agree to this knife fetish play, or were they just angry after the fact because they weren’t paid? If a person were convicted of rape for consensual sex with a prostitute, but then she charged rape because he didn’t pay, then we’d have a far worse problem with the justice system than even the current fascist tyranny.
“I drank what?” – Socrates
“i believe he is NOT guilty of RAPE if guilty at all it would be stealing because he did not pay them”
Your proud willingness to befriend a convicted rapist who terrorizes women at knife point, or, in the best possible case, a chiseling, lecherous coward who preys upon less powerful women, may be more revealing of your judgment than that of your friend. I’d suggest a round of hemlock punch to serve both as a toast your reunion dinner, and to accomplish your stated goal to “love him to death.”
i was there for the whole court preceedings, i am gravelys best friend. I love him to death… i believe he is NOT guilty of RAPE if guilty at all it would be stealing because he did not pay them…i stand behind him 100 percent and will be there the day he walks out of jail to give him a big hug and home cooked meal.
I wonder if ReBrook would have offered the same argument if his client had murdered the women?
It may have been, probably was, a difficult case, but ReBrook’s insulting, pitiless language was, I think, guaranteed to offend the jurors. It would be interesting to know how many, if any, future clients he lost, or will lose, with this argument.
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