Rough justice: Victims had a bigger trial to face with Henderson

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The right of a criminal to confront his accusers is fundamental in our criminal justice system. It's never easy on the victims, but the nature of such courtroom confrontations is rarely as harrowing as it was during the recent trial of Arthur Henderson.

The 39-year-old man was convicted Feb. 11 of raping three women in a three-day period in January 2012; two attacks occurred in Ross and one in Hopewell.

Rape cases can be particularly traumatic for victims, who must sit just a few feet from their attacker in a courtroom, repeat details of sexual violence in a public forum and, as often occurs, answer very personal questions intended to undermine their credibility and make them look bad.

Henderson's victims faced the added challenge of having their attacker directly question them, because he represented himself rather than using an attorney. Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Donna Jo McDaniel did what she could to insulate the women by imposing the sensible restriction that required Henderson to remain seated as he cross-examined them.

Still, even without physically approaching them, his questions amounted to new attacks on the victims, insinuations that twisted a violent assault, by his description, into nothing more than consensual sex.

In the end, jurors did not buy the tale that Henderson was selling, and he was convicted of all three rapes. That proved the adage that only a fool would have himself as a client, but it sadly could not erase the fact that three women who were brutally attacked had to endure still more assaults in the courtroom in order to get justice.

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