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Who: Prof. Catharine A. MacKinnon, University of Michigan Law School, and Maria T. Vullo, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Case: Kadic v. Karadzic, No. 93 Civ. 1163 (S.D.N.Y.). Outcome: A $745 million compensatory and punitive judgment against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on behalf of two nonprofit organizations, and 12 women and two children who were victims of rape, torture and genocidal sexual atrocities. The case was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act. What was the key factor in winning the trial? Maria Vullo: The women’s testimony. [T]he nature of the facts in this case [is] so incomprehensible because they’re so atrocious. When you just hear what the lawyers had to say, for example in our openings, you still find it difficult as a human being to accept it. But when anyone would hear the testimony of any of these women, it became so real for the jury. What was the biggest hurdle in the case? Catharine MacKinnon: The biggest challenge that I experienced was in putting severely sexually traumatized women on the stand at all. You have to work with the women extensively. They need the trust of the people they’re working with. They need to have a sense that the setting is one that will be receptive to what they have to say and they also need to have faith in the court setting. What was the effect of Mr. Karadzic’s not mounting a defense? Vullo: We struggled for a very long time to obtain discovery from the defendant who was actively involved himself and with counsel in that entire process. [Defendant's attorney Ramsey Clark] was involved from the beginning of the case, active at pretrial conferences and even was at the conference before the court after the trial when the judgment and the injunction were entered….But this defendant chose to only give information he wanted to give. MacKinnon: It also at least ran the risk of making it potentially appear easier and therefore making us have to answer questions like this one. In that sense, that actually makes it harder. It would be easier to confront the reality of this man than the specter of him and his absence, with everyone thinking how much easier it is for us that he isn’t here. Also, of course, the legal system works best and is created to work when there are two active sides because that also creates opportunities for each side.If you think in general about evidentiary objections and things of that sort, the kind of evidence you can put on when there’s another side objecting is larger than the evidence you could put on in the absence of those objections. But we established a cause of action for rape in genocide, which had not previously been done. The case itself made substantial new law, before it even went to the jury, and that was all with the participation of Ramsey Clark. What tip do you have generally for dealing with a jury? Vullo: The facts of the case were somewhat unique, but the presentation to the jury should be the same in every case. You need to have the jury understand your clients’ situation and the rights that have been jeopardized…. MacKinnon: Some people may think juries can’t hear extreme atrocities without either turning off or disbelieving it because it’s so awful. I think the lesson of what we just did is that’s not true. I would encourage trial lawyers to do it. Many people are intimidated at the process of dealing with severe damage that happens to women who are victims of sexual atrocities and these happen in so-called peacetime as well as in wars and in genocide. These damages are as bad as it gets. The jury heard them in full, complete detail and the results are an extraordinary amount of relief for raped women to receive. Therefore, I think the real lesson is that the women are permitted to present their own testimony on the stand, which requires the cooperation of their own lawyers.

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