Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Presumption of Guilt?

LeftWingCracker falls into a common trap in this post about Michael Vick, the NFL player who is indicted for running a pit bull fighting ring.

He says:
The first thing you have to do is remember that, like all defendants, Michael Vick is innocent until PROVEN guilty by a jury of his peers.

Then, go read the indictment, and THEN tell me that. OK, it's only an indictment....

In a word: No. In a court of law, yes, you are entitled to the presumption of innocence. It's a deeply rooted principle of American justice because at one time English justice meant bringing charges was a presumption of guilt (else why the charges?) and you had to prove your innocence. That led to all kinds of abuses.

It's also a protection. Protecting citizens from government action (which is often incontestable) based on pre-trial feelings is important. Otherwise, possibly innocent people can lose pensions, benefits, jobs, careers, etc. You can literally lose your freedom and your life.

For example, a lot of folks wanted to toss Edmund Ford from the City Council as soon as indictments against him were handed down. The voters of Ed Ford's district would lose representation for the time between his being removed from office and a new person being voted in. That's an unaddressable wrong.

But in the court of public opinion, the First Amendment reigns. We are free to think and say whatever we want based on what's in front of us and how we feel about it.

Vick's employers and sponsors are perfectly free to disassociate themselves, as it's all private contracts. No need to wait. If it turns out they did so wrongly, or prematurely, then Vick is free to pursue redress in a court of law and get compensated. It is, as they say, only money.

LWC doesn't need to twist himself all up and make insincere genuflection to some misunderstood principle. This is America and he's free to say what he wants here.

But LWC seemingly wants to punish Vick NOW. He seemingly wants to waste no time in condemning Vick's actions, rather than waiting to see what's what. He wants to abhor not just with the force of his indignation, nor the force of public condemnation, but with something more. Something like the force of law, which LWC apparently thinks is too slow and hesitant.

Thank goodness for that! Conflating personal outrage with legal consequences is a very dangerous and volatile weapon. I'd hate to be in Vick's position and have someone like LWC leading the prosecution.

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