FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
California police now say as many as 20 people were present at the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a high school homecoming dance last weekend. 10 people were involved in an assault in a back alley at the school that went on for more than two-and-a-half hours. 10 people stood around and watched without calling 9-1-1 to report it. Police say some witnesses took photos, while others laughed.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/29/art.richmond.jpg caption="Police say a student at Richmond High School was gang raped outside during a homecoming dance."]
California law makes it illegal not to report a crime against a child, but the cutoff is 14-years-old. Since the victim in this case is 15, cops say they can't arrest the spectators. The law needs to be changed immediately.
Meanwhile this horrific rape of a young girl follows that brutal beating death caught on video of a 16-year-old honor student in Chicago.
That case has been hampered by the refusal of witnesses to come forward. These kids in Chicago also stood by and watched this teenager murdered - beaten to death in broad daylight - and did nothing.
Experts say the reason crimes aren't reported could be a social phenomenon known as "the bystander effect" that means the larger the number of people involved in any situation, the less will get done...
One famous case happened in New York in the 1960s - where people watched or heard a serial killer rape, rob and murder a woman named Kitty Genovese. At the time, one witness said: "I didn't want to be involved."
Here’s my question to you: Should people who witness a crime, like the gang rape of a 15-year-old California girl, face jail for failing to report it?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Maureen from Estes Park, Colorado writes:
Failure to act still requires a decision. A decision not to help is a decision to harm. These people should be held accountable. If arrest is not a legal option, then you in the press need to hold them up to shame.
My gut instinct says "yes", but then you start thinking about situations where a bunch of people are just standing around watching a fistfight. Somebody gets punched in the face, falls down, hits their head, and dies. So what, everybody that was watching is on the hook for not reporting murder? What if the victim doesn't want the crime reported? Should the bystander still be liable if the victim asks them not to report it?
I am a retired judge. If I had these people in my courtroom, I would charge them with aiding and abetting the crime and deal with them accordingly.
Absolutely! People who stand by and watch violence should be charged; they are complicit if they do not help. I do not want to be part of a society that is so cruel it would allow an innocent person to be attacked with impunity. If we need to force people to act decently, then we will have to do
"Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ Maybe those witnesses would have been less amused if it was their sister or mother being gang raped. In that case, I'm sure they probably would want the witnesses to be jailed... and so should they.
It is a difficult question. Basically we're talking about punishment for *not* doing something. But, I think in extreme situations (with crimes like this) there should be a requirement of at least reporting it to the authorities… But it is an extremely grey area. What I would like to see reported in the media are the names and pictures of those who watched and didn't report it.