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Woman Taps Into 1887 Law to Seek Justice in Alleged Rape

Madison Smith convened own grand jury in Kansas after prosecutors wouldn't bring rape charges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 25, 2021 12:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A Kansas woman who alleges consensual sex with a friend in his college dorm room turned into assault took matters into her own hands when prosecutors declined to bring rape charges: She called a citizen grand jury, relying on a 134-year-old state law. Madison Smith, 22, collected hundreds of signatures to impanel the grand jury after the county prosecutor resolved the case by allowing Jared Stolzenburg to plead guilty to aggravated battery and receive two years' probation, reports the AP. Smith, who graduated this month from Bethany College in Lindsborg, said the February 2018 attack happened after she ran into Stolzenburg while doing laundry and went back to his room at Bethany College, where they had sex. It initially was consensual, but then he began slapping and strangling her, Smith said during Stolzenburg's sentencing hearing in August 2020.

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Smith felt the only way she could get justice was to seek a grand jury, but the process wasn't easy. She had to stand in a parking lot telling her story over and over again to strangers to collect hundreds of signatures, then do it again when the first petition was rejected on a technicality. Kansas is one of six states that allow citizens to petition for grand juries. Smith's case, which will be considered in September, is believed to be the first time that someone claiming sexual assault has used it, said a Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence rep. "Rape culture is so prevalent, and we need to get rid of it, and one of the ways to do that is to get our stories out there," Smith said.

(Read more rape stories.)

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