The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that James Paige, who remained free until 2016, got a fair trial for the aggravated rape and murder of Dora Brimage, 19, on Warren Street in Roxbury in 1987 and so will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Paige did not come to the attention of investigators until 2014, when DNA from semen found in Brimage's body matched a sample he had given after conviction for an unrelated crime. BPD detectives then found witnesses tying Paige to the rape and murder of Brimage, who sang gospel in her church and who had hoped to become a nurse, and who accepted a ride home from Paige after a party.
In its ruling today, the state's highest court set a new legal precedent: That prosecutors no longer have to rely on traditional evidence - torn clothing or physical damage to the victim's genitals - to prove aggravated rape if a sexual act occurs right before a murder.
The ruling overturns a part of a 2015 decision in which the court ruled that while a man in a murder case could be convicted of murder, there was not enough evidence to prove he had also raped his victim first, because while the two had had sex, and while she was found with two of her teeth knocked out and she had blood in her mouth, she was also working as a prostitute that night and there were no signs of ripped clothing or physical damage to her genitals.
In today's ruling, the court wrote:
We now conclude, however, that where there is evidence that the defendant severely injured and killed the victim proximate to having sex with the victim, the jury may infer that the victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse.
The change matters because aggravated rape proves the existence of "malice," one of the potential conditions for convicting a person of first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life without parole.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Elspeth Cypher, says it's time to go even further, for the court to specifically recognize femicide, or the murder of a woman because she is a woman, as a distinct crime.
Because the victims of femicide are targeted based on their sex, femicide may be understood as a type of hate crime. See Taylor, Note, Treating Male Violence Against Women as a Bias Crime, 76 B.U. L. Rev. 575, 576-577 (1996). The violence of these offenses serves to terrorize the victims and, thus, to subjugate women as a group. ... As such, hate crimes exact a greater toll on society and women, both individually and as a group, than isolated incidents of violence. ...
To use the term "femicide" also acknowledges its prevalence in our society at large. Reliable data on the incidence of femicide is unfortunately lacking. No official sources directly study male-on-female homicide or its motivations. An analysis of cross-sex homicide rates generally, however, suggests that femicide is on the rise in the United States. See Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2019 Homicide Data (Sept. 2021) ("Since reaching its low . . . in 2014, the rate [of women murdered by men in incidents with one victim and one offender] has increased, with 2019's rate . . . up nine percent since 2014").
Cypher added it's time to stop blaming prostitutes for crimes committed against them:
I also wish to address directly the implication that prostituted women are more likely to consent to a sexual encounter before being killed. A prostituted woman is no more likely to do so than a nonprostituted woman. Even outside the context of homicide, evidence that a woman is prostituted does not decrease the likelihood that she was raped. Rather, studies suggest that prostituted women are more likely to be raped than others. See, e.g., Cooney, "They Don't Want to Include Women Like Me": Sex Workers Say They're Being Left Out of the #MeToo Movement, Time (Feb. 13, 2018) (although "[t]here are no comprehensive, up-to-date statistics on how many sex workers in the U.S. have experienced sexual violence," "[o]ne systematic review of research found that globally, sex workers have a 45% to 75% chance of experiencing . . . sexual violence on the job"). Additionally, evidence suggests that homicides occur with similar frequency alongside prostitution as they do alongside rape. See FBI, Expanded Homicide Data Table 11 (2019)(listing twelve incidents of homicide occurring in context of prostitution and commercialized vice and eight homicides occurring in context of rape).