I know I promised a post about politically correct talk and what it actually is – but I am going to be politically incorrect for a moment and talk to you about something that I really don’t know how to express and maybe you can help me – why are we ok with ruining people’s lives and ignoring due process? Why is it that, as a nation, we are given rights and we are rejecting them? If someone said to me you can have all the ice cream you want and it will never contain a single calorie why would I refuse it?
The Bill of Rights is exactly that. It doesn’t just protect me when I have done something wrong. It protects me when I have not. It protects my most absurd speech, my shooting teacher’s guns, my right to vote and to not be harassed by government officials as I go about my business day to day.
It keeps me from having to open my home to the national guard when they are called to an inner city in strife. I don’t have to give testimony against myself and I have the right to a fair trial and confront my accuser.
I am innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are two cases which cause me great distress, I know there have been others, but the fact that these two come up in short order one right after another prove to me (in the way that things are proven in a non scientific setting) that we are going down a very dangerous path. We, as a nation have to have a real conversation about this and what this path means for each of us – those who have been accused of crimes and those who accuse. Because this dance is for everybody, not only the sexy people.*
I didn’t know who Kurt Metzger was before yesterday. But apparently he is a comedian who has some connection with Amy Schumer, who is also allegedly a comedian. Anyway, Kurt Metzger went to bat for a person who had been accused of rape, but without any government action meaning no one went to the police. He posted this on facebook:
Basically, what Kurt said was hey there is a process to this isn’t there? Shouldn’t we engage in some investigation or vetting (to use a word that’s become so popular these days) before we ruin people’s lives? Shouldn’t people who are accusing others of crimes report them to the police?
Apparently asking a woman to report a crime to the police is the same as saying that committing the crime is ok.
If you told someone your car was stolen, would you not expect to have them say you should report it to the police? In fact, in order to get insurance money you HAVE to report it stolen to the police. The insurance company isn’t just going to believe you. And the cops will ask you questions like what kind of car was it, where was it parked, when was the last time you saw it?
If you are robbed at gunpoint and you call the police they will ask you questions. If you don’t believe me, ask Ryan Lochte. They ask you questions in order to verify that what you are saying is true.
You realize this not only protects people who commit crimes on the regular, but it protects YOU. YOU. Yes. YOU RIGHT THERE.
If you are walking down the street and I say “she did it!” would you not want someone to ask me what you did? How you did it? When you did it and where?
And why do we want a world where anyone can be accused of anything and lives can be ruined simply because someone says so? It seems like such a terrible idea.
But ah, lest we are not satisfied with just making accusations, let us move on to case number two – Nate Parker. I didn’t know who he was either but apparently he is a famous guy who, when he was in college was accused of rape. He went to trial and was acquitted.
This is not good enough either.
The fact that a jury of 12 people said the state did not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt does not make him innocent, according to the internet and others. It just makes him not guilty.
The fact that there was an accusation alone made him guilty.
That’s it, nothing else. No proof needed. Period. Full stop.
If it’s sex, you are screwed. (And who cares if the pun is intended.)
There are rules of engagement that should apply across the board in the criminal justice system, a system that is already slanted against the defendant (who doesn’t even get a name, he is the defendant) and one of those rules is that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, and everyone gets to confront their accuser and everyone that goes to trial has to be convicted only after every element is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There are no exceptions to this rule. Nor should there be.
There should not be an exception if your car is stolen.
You are robbed at gunpoint.
Or if someone puts their penis inside your vagina against your will.
But that last one feels so much worse, doesn’t it? It feels like it should be an exception to the rule because – because vagina? Admit it. That’s it. That’s why it feels like there should be a difference. I get it. Sex makes it seem different. But it isn’t.
There is no exception for sex crimes and there shouldn’t be.
If my friend tells me she was raped I will encourage her to report it. If she doesn’t and wants it to be a private affair and deal with it on her own (which people do, even when they are robbed at gunpoint) then that’s her call as well. But you can’t have it both ways. You want to convict people in court of public opinion without giving the accused any chance of defending themselves.
I don’t understand why. And until I do I will continue to tell people to prove it.
Thanks, Mirriam – what you wrote needs to be said. The flaws in our legal system for dealing with accusations of crime are many and very real. The flaws need to be fixed, so that we can trust the system enough to report crimes (and hope that the system will help prevent crimes). To gain trust, the system needs to include due process. Not just because it protects us all – you set out that aspect very clearly so I need not repeat- but because lack of due process hurts more than the person actually arrested. A kid arrested for doing stupid, dangerous teenage stuff gets interrogated without counsel and railroaded and winds up in prison…. the kid’s whole family suffers, we all suffer the loss of that young person’s potential. And once we’ve seen that, maybe we let criminal behavior go unreported b/c we don’t want to see that happen again. (I know of sexual assault/abuse victims who did not report a family member or other known assailant because the system didn’t provide a way to stop the abuse without destroying the family.)
An problem is that if person who is not a citizen gets arrested for something minor and doesn’t receive due process, which includes having your lawyer advise you on the effect on immigration status of pleading guilty to a particular crime — they may get not just prison or probation but also deported because that’s mandatory for certain, even low-level, crimes. And THAT means destruction of a whole family. So immigrant communities have reason not to report criminal behavior.
On another note, families desperate for help when a loved one is having a mental illness episode will not report threats if they fear that the loved one will get no due process, will be killed by police, or overcharged by prosecutors who look only at the behavior, not the cause of it, or over-punished by a judge who thinks mental illness is just an “abuse excuse,” etc.
My personal main reason to distrust the system is that it overfunds police/prosecution (not just with tax money but with money and property essentially stolen by unfair forfeiture laws from people not convicted) and underfunds defense for those unable to hire a lawyer. So I tend to doubt the validity of lots of convictions.
There are many problems that currently create distrust of the system. There may be many different answers. But “convicting” people in the court of social media and tabloid/talk show media is not an acceptable answer to any problem; without a system to deal fairly with allegations of harm, we are not a society, we’re a permanent mob.