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Rape case lawyer: Women 'especially good' at lying

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Defense lawyer Steve Farese says women lie during his closing arguments in the rape trial of Shelby County businessman Mark Giannini at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center. Yalonda M. James/The Commercial Appeal

MEMPHIS — An attorney defending a wealthy man in a Tennessee rape case is drawing fire for saying women can be especially good at lying.

“People can be very good at lying,” defense lawyer Steve Farese said during closing arguments in a Memphis case Thursday. “Women can be especially good at it because they’re the weaker sex and we … and we want to protect them and not have anybody take advantage of them, at least I do.”

At one point he appeared to say “that’s what the book says,” referencing the weaker sex comment.

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The comments drew an immediate reaction from Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council.

“It’s despicable. It’s absolutely despicable. I’m stunned. I really am,” said Clubb.

“My job is not to care if anybody gets offended,” Farese said by phone later Thursday. “Smart people will see it for what it is.”

Farese is part of the legal team defending Memphis-area businessman Mark Giannini, who is accused of raping a woman who came to his isolated mansion for a job interview.

The woman testified Giannini choked her and the next thing she remembered, she was waking up at the hospital. Much of the trial testimony this week was so horrific mainstream news outlets couldn’t publish it.

The defense team has said the sex was consensual and questioned the woman’s credibility, pointing to a background that includes drug smuggling.

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Farese made his comments about women lying before a jury of 11 women and three men. Told of his comments, Clubb says she couldn’t believe it.

“He stood in front of 11 women on a jury and said women are liars? That just doesn’t even make the first bit of sense and it’s despicable. Doesn’t even sound like professional strategy for an attorney.”

In his closing argument, Farese also commented on what the woman was wearing, saying her top wasn’t in evidence because “they” don’t want the jury to see it because it was a sexy halter top.

Clubb said this is an example of attitudes that she’s trying to change: “What we wear, where we are, whether we are drunk, is not the reason for rape. Rape happens because men rape … And it’s wrong. It’s a crime.”

Giannini, 51, is charged with raping three women beginning in 2002. He is on trial this week charged with three counts of aggravated rape against one woman.

Follow Katie Fretland and Daniel Connolly on Twitter: @katiefretland and @DanielConnolly

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