Sunday, December 10, 2017

Remember 'innocent until proven guilty'

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for November 8, 2017)

The current witch hunt swirling around accusations of sexual misconduct and rape in the entertainment industry exposes the worst in people. Both those who may have done wrong, and those excited to join the dog pile to tear the accused to shreds.

I understand that few people want bad guys to get away with their crimes. Neither do I, although I probably have a different idea of what "justice" means. I probably also have a different idea of what constitutes a crime.

Those calling for the figurative heads of the various accused on a platter seem hysterical in their vindictiveness and in their certainty that all accusations are true.

As for the less vindictive people out there, I see some of them saying everyone is innocent until proved guilty. This is also a mistake.

Innocent until proved guilty is the standard you want any justice system based on. It should be the default assumption of every juror and judge. Unfortunately, the current American justice system has gone astray by assuming guilt. Anyone caught up in the court system is considered guilty of something, otherwise they wouldn't have been arrested. This has rarely been as dangerous an assumption as it is now; possibly only rivaled in legal miscarriage by actual witch trials and in the treatment of recaptured runaway slaves.

If you are on a jury you have an obligation to listen to all sides, to decide who is telling the truth, and also to consider whether the law which may have been violated should even be a law in the first place. If you've already made up your mind and aren't going to consider that your first impressions may have been mistaken, you have no business being on a jury and holding a person's fate in your hands. The seriousness of the charge doesn't change this. Neither do your personal feelings.

For the rest of us, when you know someone is guilty you are under no obligation to pretend otherwise. Expecting people to pretend a person is innocent when they know he isn't is promoting dishonesty. If you are not on the jury, it's also not your job to decide restitution or, heaven forbid, punishment for anyone accused of a wrongdoing .

It's also quite likely you simply don't really know what happened and never will; not having enough information to form an intelligent opinion. This may be the hardest thing for most people to accept, but it's vital.

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1 comment:

  1. innocent? the state practices economic extinction: re-trying their intended slaves ad nauseum, destroying lives, of those "not yet found guilty".
    Tax "courts", Bundys, Bakers, ...