Art imitating life a little too well
For some people, writing novels is a kind of wish fulfillment. They give their protagonists all the traits they wish they had, make them better looking, more intelligent, stronger, faster, what have you. But California prosecutor Joyce Dudley went a bit too far in the fantasy department:
In January, Joyce Dudley, a deputy district attorney in Santa
Barbara, published a crime novel called “Intoxicating Agent.” Its
heroine, Jordon Danner, has the same initials and the same job as Ms.
Dudley, and the novel concerns a rape case with echoes of a real one.
In both, the victim said she had been sexually assaulted after being
given an intoxicating drug.
Acting on a motion from the real
defendant in a real rape-by-intoxication case, an appeals court in
Ventura, Calif., ruled on Thursday that Ms. Dudley’s novel had crossed
an ethical line.
“She has a disabling conflict of interest,”
Justice Kenneth R. Yegan of the California Court of Appeal wrote of Ms.
Dudley for a unanimous three-judge panel. Ms. Dudley must be disqualified, Justice Yegan continued, because the
defendant, Massey Haraguchi, “is being prosecuted for raping an
intoxicated person while the prosecutor is promoting her novel
involving the identical charge.”
While Dudley’s judgment was, to say the least, extremely questionable (what the Times article doesn’t mention is that she self-published the book, which opens up a whole other can o’ worms) there are ramifications for Yegan’s decision and he ruled that “No current public employeeshould be permitted
to exploit his or her official position as a lever to earn extra
income.” That got former Manhattan prosecutor and bestselling crime writer Linda Fairstein to call that aspect of the decision
“overreaching and absurd” – but she expressed little sympathy for Dudley.“It’s not really a good judgment call to closely mirror the facts of a case while it’s still pending.”