Tag: innocent

Sexual Assault Claims Are Turning into Witch Trials

By Jack Parkos | United States

The term “witch hunt” has been popular ever since the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Through history, it often describes cases in which either the public or authorities ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Most popularly, the allusion links the witch trials to the McCarthy-era politics of the American 1950s. When linking the two, most make a clear distinction that such mob mentality is severely detrimental and that society should never revert to such a thing again. However, it seems that it now is coming back into American politics.

The Modern American Witch Trials

What is the new witch hunt? Sexual assault allegations. Recently, Christine Ford, and now another woman, Deborah Ramirez, have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Kavanaugh has denied both incidents and refuses to back down. Yet, many senators are still calling for him to withdraw before anyone finds him guilty. It seems very clear, thus, that those particular senators are not giving him a fair treatment. We simply do not know the facts of the case yet.

It is easy to observe that in specific crimes regarding sexual assault, different people hold drastically different standards for both the accuser and accused. A high-school civics course will teach the idea of innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. Yet, as the #MeToo movement continues, many are ignoring this critical principle. It is particularly interesting how many of his Democratic opponents are members of the party that overwhelmingly supports social justice, but at the same time, are now denying due process and equal treatment under the law.

Sexual assault, without a doubt, is a serious and deeply-running issue in American society today. Those who are guilty should not go without consequence. But, especially due to the gravity of the issue, they should first go through a fair and legal system.

All It Takes

Just a single accusation of sexual assault may cost someone his or her social life and reputation. Many employers will fire workers over as much. The claim could be completely false and without evidence, but this is inconsequential in an era of mob mentality. The similarities to Salem are horrifying. All it takes is one blasphemous claim to influence the life of an individual and the broader political realm.

Suppose that Ford had accused Kavanaugh of another crime, like theft. Most likely, the justice system would treat him more fairly than in the case of a sexual assault. In this case, innocent until proven guilty would maintain. Why is this not the case for sexual assault and misconduct cases?

Of course, sexual assault is considerably different from theft. It is more deeply personal and to many, more serious as well. However, this is not how the rule of law works. All individuals have the same due process rights, no matter the crime. Legally, the Bill of Rights guarantees this, and morally, it is simply wrong to assume guilt without evidence. Admittedly, the Kavanaugh case is beyond the statute of limitations, but the moral point still stands.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Society should apply this principle equally. If all people have this right in the legal system, why not in the court of public opinion? This essential idea should not falter based on a different setting.

The public does not know all of the facts of the case and has not seen all of the evidence yet. Thus, it is wrong to jump to conclusions in any way. We must not call “liar” to the accuser nor must we call “guilty” to the accused. Kavanaugh may be guilty, and Ford may be a liar. To assert either at this point in the game is incredibly unfair and illegitimate. Without the evidence, nobody can suggest so with any degree of certainty. Hence, both parties should receive the same treatment: innocent until proven guilty. Neither side should allow political, personal, or partisan goals to interfere with the virtue of American justice.


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Even Roy Moore Has the Right to Due Process

Dylan Schultze | USA

As of thus far, whether or not Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl years ago has not been objectively proven, one way or another. Nobody knows if any of the men who have recently been accused of rape, harassment, assault, or misconduct are guilty, except for those who have admitted it, of course. For some, the evidence is stacked pretty high, but we still cannot assume their guilt without irrefutable evidence.

The purpose here is not to defend predators or to pretend like men aren’t capable of great evil. Any individual has the capacity to commit an egregious act against a fellow human being. However, in this Salem-like witch hunt of sexual abusers, we are losing sight of a core principle that sets America apart from many other nations: Each one of us is innocent until proven guilty.

While we all want to hold anyone accountable for any crimes he or she may commit, we should not become so blinded by our own fear and lust for vengeance that we stop seeing the humanity in others and the rights they have as citizens of this great nation. To allow accusation, rumor, and innuendo to rip people from their jobs and drive them from the circles of respectable society is to allow for mobs to rule with torches and pitchforks.

In particular, I am concerned by the accusations against men in positions of power, because it is set against a backdrop of political hostility towards men in general. Again, this is not a defense of the guilty, or even a criticism of those who want to take steps to bring the guilty to account, legally. However, we must realize that how we are going about it is uncivilized and threatens to rip apart civil society.

Already, we have a culture that is anti-man. Masculinity is dubbed “toxic.” Men on college campuses are fighting for their right of due process, and often aren’t allowed their own spaces without being called sexists, whereas in may cases, women are given exactly these realms.

As an example of society;s current double standard, I will take a recent case from a local elementary school, in which a 7 year old boy elbowed a girl in the rear after she kicked him between the legs. Unsurprisingly, the boy, a mere seven years old, was written up for sexual harassment, while the girl received no punishment. Squabbles between small children will always exist in a free society, and to punish one and not the other, simply based on gender, is an abhorrence.

Clearly, if we are now going to demand that men lose their livelihood and reputations over a potentially-true accusation, if we are going to begin treating mere news reports, second-hand stories, and unproven allegations as fact, we lose one of the core tenets that makes America a free society. In doing so, we become a nation ruled by mob mentality, a nation seeking instant verdicts in the court of public opinion, desiring instant action and instant punishment over true justice.

Clearly, we cannot allow this process to continue, and must slow down and allow due process to take place. Investigate instead of accuse. Consider instead of condemn. Let justice rule instead of vengeance. Otherwise, we all lose. If the rights of the few are sacrificed to feed the mob, the rights of the many will follow.

Innocence must be cherished and accusers must not be treated as if they’re infallible; their words must not immediately become judge, jury, and executioner. The assumption of innocence must remain of greater value than the passions of the plaintiff.

“Is the accuser always holy now?”, Arthur Miller writes in The Crucible. “Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem — vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!” America has taken leaps and bounds forwards since this dark era. Let us not return to it once more.

(Image Credit: www.slate.com)

“Innocent Until Proven Guilty” for All, But Not You!

By Ryan Lau | USA

The Salem Witch Trials officially were ended in May of 1693. During that time, many women were accused without infallible evidence of what was seen to be a horrible crime. We as an educated populace recognize the tragedy that was the Salem Witch Trials and have vowed to never again return to such an air of mob mentality. So, why is it then, that we as a nation simply cannot abandon this disastrous and accusatory state of believing guilt without proper evidence?

Just this morning, NBC’s Matt Lauer was fired by the news company after an anonymous female coworker claimed he behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner towards her during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Anyone who has watched the news since the Harvey Weinstein scandal began just over a month ago knows that Lauer is not alone. In fact, dozens of men have been accused of sexual misconduct. The only thing missing, in most scenarios, is the proof.

Before going any further, I would like to make it incredibly clear that both myself and 71 Republic strongly condemn all actions of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. This condemnation is not gender-specific, as poor sexual behavior by any individual is a truly despicable act. I firmly believe that if an adequate conviction can be made with irrefutable evidence, subsequent actions must be taken immediately. The simple fact of the matter is that there often is no proper evidence. As a sort of cookie cutter formatting for a sexual misconduct case, there is a distinct two-step process. First, an individual, usually with the help of a lawyer, makes a claim that he or she has been treated immodestly. Second, the accused party is immediately stripped of any social standing they may have, often including the loss of any hopes of a stable career.

But wait just one minute. Doesn’t that skip a step? The one in which we recognize the concept of innocent until proven guilty? The long-standing principle of our court system clearly should be applied in this scenario, as it would protect those who are being wrongly accused. This is in no way suggesting that in every scenario, an individual is lying about a sexual assault claim. I am merely pointing out that it is horrific to assume that the accused party is guilty, just as it is horrific to assume the accusing party is a liar.

To provide an astonishing bit of evidence that may help emphasize the gravity of this situation, I examined a 2014 study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which analyzed the rate of exoneration for convicted felons on death row. The results were incredible. The percentages of exonerations, given a prisoner spends indefinite time on death row, was conservatively estimated to be 4.1%. This figure still does not include those innocents who would remain on death row permanently, as it is an established fact that courts do not always come up with the proper verdict.

How, though, does this link back to the Salem-like accusations against prominent men like Lauer? Well, court cases involving the death penalty naturally are put under a greater degree of scrutiny. In the mandatory appeals process, innocence is sought out through the Direct Appeal and the Federal Habeas Corpus. Despite this extensive process, which annually costs $90,000 more than simply keeping a prisoner for life, at least one in every twenty-five found guilty is later realized to be innocent, even after all resources previously available were exhausted.

On the other hand, the average sexual misconduct accusation clearly does not come with over a hundred thousand dollars a year in mandatory appeals funding. In fact, there is never any at all, as sexual misconduct, excluding some instances of rape, is never punishable by death. Now, given that this research is not readily available to represent the accused, one can reasonably infer that there is a greater margin of error. Thus, a much higher number of 4.1% of the accused are most likely not entirely guilty of their accusation. With such staggeringly high rates, it is incredibly injudicious to assume the guilt of the accused in this scenario. Even if the rate of innocence was one percent, the rights of those one percent must be protected, but as that figure is likely much higher, it becomes all the more important.

Barring the potentiality of the existence of unreleased evidence regarding the matter, NBC made an incredibly poor choice in terminating Lauer’s contract. Though they, as a private employer, have every right to do as they please with the contracts of their employees, this action was clearly unjustified. We saw a similar pattern of unquestioned belief in accusation during the Salem Witch Trials. It resurfaced again during the Red Scare. I now dare to ask, what will it take before we as a society recognize the need for evidence-based conviction?