I think I just the latest script for Law & Order: SVU – PB/TK
Talking Without Talking: The case of Anna Stubblefield and “facilitated communication” – By Daniel Engber April 11 2017
Last Tuesday morning, in a tiny, crowded courtroom in New Brunswick, New Jersey, a panel of appellate judges heard arguments in the case of convicted rapist Marjorie Anna Stubblefield. In the fall of 2015, Stubblefield, the 47-year-old former chairwoman of philosophy at Rutgers University in Newark, was found guilty on two counts of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to a dozen years in New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. Her victim (or her paramour, if you take her story at face value) is a mute 35-year-old with cerebral palsy who has been diagnosed as having severe physical and cognitive impairments. “I was deeply in love,” she wrote in a letter to the judge after her conviction. “I believed that he and I were intellectual equals, and that our romantic relationship was consensual and mutually loving. I intended no harm, and I had nothing to gain.”
From the start, Stubblefield claimed that “D.J.,” as he’s known in court documents, consented to their affair through what’s called “facilitated communication.” That is to say, he typed out his words on a portable keyboard, with her hand supporting his and pulling back against his frequent muscle spasms. At trial, though, the state convinced a jury that Stubblefield’s efforts at facilitated communication had been a sham—that Stubblefield was the true author of D.J.’s keyboard messages, whether she realized it or not. That meant her romance with D.J. had been at best a reckless Ouija-board delusion and at worst a knowing fraud. (For more background on this case, see my feature for the New York Times from October 2015.)
Now it seems that Stubblefield may get a second chance. Her lawyers argue that, as a result of mistakes during the trial, her conviction should be overturned and the case retried. The judges’ questions at the hearing on last Tuesday hinted at an opening: Had the trial judge been unfair to Stubblefield by excluding evidence that would have helped her lawyers prove that D.J. really can communicate?