William Kennedy Smith walked out of a Florida courthouse a free man after a jury took just over an hour to acquit him of rape.Mr. Smith's accuser said after the verdict Wednesday that despite the ordeal she has gone through, she has no regrets. Her only hope, she said, is that her actions will encourage other women to report what has become America's most underreported crime. Smith, who said he hopes to resume his medical training, was accused by the single mother of raping her at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach on March 30. The jurors never heard about unproven allegations that Smith had attacked at least three women in the past. Nor did they hear about the accuser's past sexual activity, drug use, abortions - or that she passed a lie detector test. "I made my decision based on the evidence - and that's the only thing we were instructed to do," said Lea Haller, the youngest member of the panel of four women and two men. Some feminist activists fear this case might make it harder for a woman to come forward. "After seeing what she went through publicly, it is clearly going to discourage women from reporting rape," said Julia Dawson, active in the National Organization for Women in Miami. But other women's activists and lawyers doubt that this case will have much impact. "On one hand, there is a sensitivity to being aware of date rape. But you have to be equally aware of the fact that there are people who are less than stable and they perceive events in a manner that is far different from the truth," Miami criminal attorney Janet Sharpstein said. Susan Brownmiller, author of the groundbreaking book on rape "Against Our Will," said, "I think there was a reasonable doubt and that is all there is to it."

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.