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FLORIDA LAW PREVENTS RAPISTS FROM USING `CLOTHING' DEFENSE

Defense attorneys in Florida rape cases can no longer use the alleged victim's clothing as evidence to justify the attack, under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Bob Martinez.

"There is no excuse for rape under any circumstances, and this law will make it clear that the victim of sexual battery should not be persecuted as the criminal is prosecuted," the Republican governor said. "This new law is a major victory for the rights of crime victims."The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Elaine Gordon Miami, said the measure stemmed from the acquittal of a rape suspect last October in Fort Lauderdale. Jurors commented that the woman may have tempted the assailant by wearing skimpy clothing.

The alleged victim testified that Steven Lord, 26, abducted her at knife-point from a Fort Lauderdale restaurant parking lot in November 1988 and raped her repeatedly during a trip north on Interstate 95. She said she escaped five hours later and 120 miles north of where she'd been abducted.

Defense attorney Tim Day told jurors the 22-year-old woman agreed to have sex with Lord in exchange for $100 and cocaine, but later changed her mind.

Several jurors said they decided on an innocent verdict partly because the woman was wearing a lace miniskirt and no underwear.

The acquittal sparked outrage and protests from many womens' groups.