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Just as the nation’s attention to underserved communities and sexual assault victims has increased, the U.S. House of Representatives has — acting purely along partisan lines — taken steps that have the potential to significantly harm these groups. The House is currently considering a bill, inaptly named the “PROSPER Act,” that would drastically limit the ability of students with financial need to pay for higher education and weaken protections for sexual assault victims.

“His words are weightless to me. You cannot bargain or barter the truth.” It has only been a few months since I last wrote about a sexual assault case from Boulder, but yet another tragedy is under the spotlight. The quote above is taken from a letter the victim wrote and read aloud in court, but not in a trial. Instead, he agreed to a plea bargain offered by the Boulder District Attorney’s office in exchange for a more lenient sentencing recommendation.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “an impartial jury” to all defendants. But what seems to be a clear and concise rule becomes much less so in practice. Most dramatically, whatever is said among deliberating jurors cannot be used to prove bias. No matter how far from impartial such statements may remove a jury. That is the case of Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Charged with sexual assault against two teenage girls, the jury convicted him 12-0. The unanimous opinion of his peers found him guilty, just as the system is supposed to work.