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Oregon v. Rideout

No Help From Friends . . .

The lawyers made their opening arguments before Barber and a jury of eight women and four men on 20 December. The prosecution told the jury to prepare themselves for Greta Rideout's testimony that her husband had struck and raped her within sight of the couple's crying two-year-old daughter. The defense countered by saying that Greta Rideout had a "serious sexual problem" and that his 21-year-old client "honestly believed if you are married to a woman, you have a right to sex."

During the following two days, a number of the couple's friends, neighbors, and relatives testified for the prosecution. While witnesses agreed that John did, indeed, beat his wife, a few gave testimony that raised questions about Greta's motives for accusing him of rape.

David Lowe testified that during an argument prior to 10 October, he had heard Greta warn her husband that she would have him arrested under Oregon's new rape law. The manager of the Rideout's apartment building, Jackie Godfrey, testified that following John's arrest, Greta had mentioned a $50,000 offer from the Warner Brothers film company. Jackie Godfrey's daughter, Eugenia, and her husband, Wayne, also testified as to the conversation.

Testimony given by two other prosecution witnesses, Jenny Reisch and John Rideout's half-brother Jack Hinkle, substantiated that the Rideouts had a troubled marriage, but they also cast doubt on Greta's truthfulness. At the beginning of the trial, Burt had said that Greta Rideout taunted her husband by saying that she, and her friend Jenny, had once had a lesbian relationship. Jenny testified that there had been no such relationship, and that Greta Rideout's story had been "made up" to "bait" John.

Burt told the court that Greta said she had been raped by Hinkle. However, Hinkle testified that he had never raped his sister-in-law. He also testified that the Rideouts had once lived with him, and that they had been in the habit of "play[ing] games" that involved chasing each other through various rooms before having sex.

Other testimony was less open to interpretation. Dr. Lewis Sayers, the physician who examined Greta after the incident, testified that both her mental and physical condition were "probably from a forced act of intercourse." Officer Deborah Cleveland, who arrested John, said his comment about his wife's battered jaw was, "If I'd done it right she wouldn't be here to complain."

Greta was the prosecution's last witness. She testified that her husband routinely demanded sex two to three times a week and violent sex once a week. She also said that her husband frequently kicked and hit her. On 10 October, she woke at 9:00 a.m. and did housework while her husband, a student, slept until the afternoon. Upon waking, he demanded that she have sex with him. Greta refused, saying she had to get ready for work. He began to chase her, she recalled. "I was afraid of him. He was very angry. I'd never seen him that angry."

She testified that her husband had said, "You are my wife. You should do what I want." There was a physical fight, in front of their two-year-old daughter. When John ordered the child to leave the room, she obeyed, but Greta could hear her daughter crying, "Mommy, Mommy!" Finally, having been beaten and hit especially hard in her jaw, Greta gave in.

Afterward, Greta continued, her husband dragged her to the bathroom and forced her to look at her bruised face in the mirror. He told her, "This is what you'll get for not cooperating from now on." He also threatened to tell lies about her if she went to the police and said that if he were ever arrested, "I'll find you and that will be the end of you."

During the prosecution's presentation of its case, the jury also heard the tape of Greta's call to the police on October 10, and visited the couple's apartment.

John was the only defense witness. His excuse was, "She hit me first." He admitted to hitting her, but testified that he had apologized, saying "`Greta, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that.' She said it was all right," he continued, and then they kissed and had "voluntary" sexual intercourse.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Oregon v. Rideout - Significance, Does Marriage Mean Consent?, No Help From Friends . . ., Lose One, Win Some