A former Yale University student Saifullah Khan was found not guilty after standing trial for allegedly raping a fellow Yale student on Halloween night of 2015.
Khan was a senior when he was suspended by the University on Nov. 9, 2015 and arrested three days later on Nov. 12, 2015. His trial has gained national attention as a rare example of a college sexual assault case being tried in a criminal court.
On the night of the alleged incident, the victim, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, attended an off-campus party at Jewish society Shabtai, where she said she had drunk two rum and cokes, two glasses of wine and one shot of hard liquor. Following the party, she attended the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween show where she she said she lost her friends and found Khan, who sat with her while she vomited and then walked her back to her room.
Khan claimed that after saying “goodbye” to Doe, Doe called him back to her room where she then proceeded to take her clothes off and perform oral sex. Afterwards, Khan said that Doe took a shower while he made a two-hour phone call to his girlfriend who had been in an open relationship with him. Following the phone call, Khan said the pair had “consensual protected vaginal sex.”
Doe said her memory was fragmented but that remembered entering the room, vomiting, and lying in her bed fully-clothed. Then, during the night, Doe said that Khan began to penetrate her as she cried.
Khan’s defense in the trial has been highly-criticized. Over several days, the defense asked Doe how much she had to drink on Halloween night and why she had not worn a more modest Halloween costume like a “Cinderella in a long flowing gown” in place of her black cat outfit.
Laura Palumbo, spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, described Khan’s lawyers line of questioning to the The New York Times as “all victims’ worst fears in coming forward." She added that the defense's tactics were “very intentionally working to trigger victim-blaming and stereotypes and misconceptions about sexual assault.”
Despite these critiques, jurors ultimately came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence "to show that there could not have been consent," the Times reported.
While the criminal justice system requires evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” to find a defendant guilty, Yale, and most United States colleges including Penn, uses the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for sexual assault cases. This standard calls for punishment to be meted out to the alleged perpetrator if evidence shows that sexual assault likely occurred.
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