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Why Tyson lost and Smith won

William Kennedy Smith is a free man, about to walk through the halls of a university as a first-year medical student.

Mike Tyson is living on borrowed time, out on bail and awaiting a sentence that could place him in a prison cell for the rest of his life.

Both men faced rape charges in high-powered trials that were closely followed by the nation. Two months ago, Smith was acquitted in Palm Beach County of raping a woman he picked up at a bar. On Monday, at the end of a 12-day trial in Indianapolis, Tyson was found guilty of raping a woman he met at a beauty pageant. He faces up to 60 years behind bars.

Both women went willingly with their alleged assaulters, whom they knew only by reputation _ Tyson, a former world heavyweight champ; and Smith, a descendent of one of America's most prominent families. Both men said the women engaged in consensual sex. Both women claimed they were forced into sex by men who physically overpowered them. Both men had a bottomless supply of money to pay for big-gun defense attorneys.

The similarities end there.

According to a handful of experts from Tampa Bay and the rest of the country, the differences begin with the defendants.

Smith is training to become a doctor. Tyson is a man who makes his living through raw aggression. Such ferocity does not play well in front of a jury.

"You can't win with anger," Gerry Spence, the Wyoming trial lawyer who defended Imelda Marcos and represented the family of Karen Silkwood, said during a brief phone interview.

"And anger is what drives a boxing champion. .


. That's an emotion that comes from the gut of every successful fighter, and he (Tyson) can't displace that. He cannot rid himself of that any more than he can rid himself of the color of his skin or the way he looks. It's as much a part of him as his toes."

Martha Hoover, an Indianapolis lawyer who once prosecuted sex crime cases in the same court where Tyson was found guilty, agreed that Tyson's profession probably worked against him in the eyes of the jury. "The fact that Mike Tyson is a big brute and gets paid millions of dollars to be a big brute _ I think that possibly hurt him," said Hoover.

Alison Muscatine, who covered the Tyson trial for the Washington Post and followed the Smith trial on TV, said because witnesses testified that Tyson "felt-up" several contestants backstage at a beauty pageant, his attorneys tried to highlight the boxer's "cloddish" behavior by suggesting his accuser should have known he was a "sexual predator."

Martha Burt, a researcher for the Urban Institute, a non-profit policy and research organization in Washington, believes race and class were factors in the two verdicts. "Smith is white, rich and a Kennedy," said Burt. "Tyson is not white, not a Kennedy. He's rich, but he wasn't born into it."

Most legal experts agree on one thing: Evidence convicted Tyson, and the lack of it exonerated Smith.

"The medical evidence presented in the Tyson case added a lot of weight," said Judy Hoyer, a prosecutor for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

In the Smith case, the emergency room physician who saw the alleged victim testified that she had a deep bruise on one rib and appeared traumatized. A crime scene expert also showed the court photographs of bruises on the woman's ankles, legs and hands.

But the emergency room physician who examined Tyson's victim testified the woman suffered vaginal abrasions that were almost never present in women who engaged in consensual sex. A medical school professor who testified after him concurred.

The accusers in the two trials contrasted as much as the accused.

"Patricia Bowman (Smith's accuser) was a 28-year-old single mother and divorced woman in a bar," said Muscatine, of the Washington Post. "Tyson's accuser was one month past her 18th birthday and was clearly a naive girl."

She was also a Sunday school teacher.

"From a prosecutor's standpoint," said Hoover, "she was a very strong victim. She was intelligent, she was articulate, she went into the trial with a tremendous amount of credibility."

Attempts by the defense to paint the young woman as a gold-digger fell short. The woman's account was helped by the corroborating testimony of a limousine driver who saw her immediately after leaving Tyson's hotel room and reported that she seemed disoriented and upset.

Many who followed the trial also argued that Tyson was severely handicapped by a high-priced defense team from Washington _ a team that clearly had trouble establishing a rapport with the judge, the jury, even their own client.

At one point in the trial, while talking about a bottle of Evian water that came up during testimony, the lead defense attorney referred to the water with a French pronunciation that obviously confused many in the courtroom. But when the lead prosecutor talked about the bottled water, he mispronounced "Evian" like a Hoosier.

Henry Valenzuela, a Tampa trial lawyer who represents rape victims in civil cases, believes Tyson played Indiana like a visiting team.

Valenzuela said Tyson and his buddies walked into the courthouse every day wearing "thousand-dollar suits." Valenzuela added that Tyson hired the wrong lawyer, Vincent J. Fuller, of Washington, who handles high-profile, sophisticated criminal defense cases in larger metropolitan areas.

"This is a garden-variety rape case in the Heartland of America," Valenzuela said.

Fuller's defense misfired, according to Valenzuela. He portrayed Tyson as a "sexual deviant" who pinched behinds and talked dirty, and that any woman with him late at night should have known sex was expected.

"That may have played in Washington, but not in Indiana. There's an entirely different set of morals," Valenzuela said.

In contrast, special prosecutor J. Gregory Garrison _ an experienced Indianapolis lawyer _ cultivated a folksy, down-home charm, speaking to the jury in a Hoosier twang and dropping the name of Bob Knight, Indiana University's beloved basketball coach, into his closing argument.

Garrison's case also appealed to the Midwestern morals: Athletes are not above the law.

The appeal quotient was exactly the opposite in the Smith case. Prosecutor Moira Lasch came across as cold and ineffective, while lead defense attorney Roy Black _ a Florida native with an unassuming courtroom manner _ hired jury-selection experts and avoided parading the Kennedy clan past the jury.

But their presence in the gallery didn't hurt. Sitting in the front rows of the courtroom were Smith's aunts Ethel Kennedy and Eunice Shriver. His cousin, John Kennedy, the dashing son of President Kennedy, also made an appearance.

Tyson, on the other hand, was accompanied by his two burly friends, his promoter, Don King, and his "adopted" mother, Camille Ewald, the longtime companion of Tyson's old trainer Cus d'Amato.

As in many rape trials, both defense teams tried to portray the accuser's outfits as the costume of a seductress, but the trivia of clothes played a more lurid role in the Smith trial. On the night of the attack, Bowman wore a black rayon dress from Ann Taylor and "fancy" underwear from Victoria's Secret that were passed before the jury.

While Tyson testified his accuser wore "hot pants" that he considered "sexy," the jury saw that the shorts actually reached mid-thigh and were quite ordinary in appearance.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Garrison mentioned Tyson's victim actually wore her pajama bottoms underneath her shorts. "This is a girl who puts on pajama panties when she goes out for a hot interlude with some big star?" Garrison sarcastically asked the jury.

Hoyer, the prosecutor with the Hillsborough County State Attorney's office, who was also sexually assaulted 21 years ago and testified in court against her rapist, said it's too early to tell whether the guilty verdict in the Tyson trial will encourage more women to report their assaults.

_ Times librarian Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.