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I was a juror on the rape case dismissed last week and reported Jan. 10 ("Rape case dismissed after lie to judge"). I heard Friday afternoon that the case had been dismissed, which was both a relief and a distressingly abrupt end to a difficult experience. We had heard most of the prosecution's case, but none of the defense case.

The prosecutor had behaved inappropriately and it was necessary to remove her from the case. But I learned from Tuesday's article that it was actually a discretionary choice by the county attorney to dismiss the case rather than to proceed. The stated rationale for this decision does not match the reality of the situation, and the public deserves a better explanation from the county attorney.

County Attorney Mary Moriarty said, "It is impossible to substitute a new attorney who is unfamiliar with the case." I assume she meant a new attorney who is sufficiently familiar with the case.

Could another prosecutor have stepped in? The case was not complicated; it relied only on witness testimony that the rape actually took place and, if it did, that the defendant was the rapist. The evidence was not "complex": there were only a few witnesses. We were asked during jury selection whether we recognized the names of witnesses, and that list was certainly not much longer than six names. Five had already testified.

A further indication that the case was not complicated is that Judge Peter Cahill had told the jury that the case would likely conclude early this week.

Perhaps it is because I'm not a lawyer, but it doesn't seem plausible that basic familiarity with the case would require more than a few hours of study at this stage.

On Friday afternoon the county attorney had the following choice: move for dismissal or continue the trial with the potential disadvantage of an underprepared prosecutor. She chose dismissal with one of two consequences: (a) an innocent defendant is not formally acquitted and lives with a unjust cloud over his reputation, or (b) a guilty defendant goes free.

Had they proceeded with the case, the possible outcomes would have been different: (c) a not guilty defendant is formally acquitted, or (d) a guilty defendant goes to prison. From the standpoint of the public, those are unambiguously better than (a) and (b).

One of the worst possible outcomes would be conviction of an innocent defendant. But that seems unlikely to be caused by an underprepared prosecutor.

Yet the county attorney chose dismissal, saying they would be "unable to secure a conviction." A conviction may have become unlikely (if, indeed, it was going to happen in the first place), but such a blanket statement is logically false, and the possibility that the rape of a 14-year-old goes unpunished weighs extremely heavily in the public interest.

But no jury will judge the evidence now.

The county attorney's statements don't seem to add up, and that is why I believe she owes the public a more complete and credible explanation for the decision.

Joe Ritter lives in Minneapolis.