There are many serious flaws in our judicial system that lead immediately to despair. Not least among these faults is the naming of suspects and persons placed under arrest by police and their handmaidens in the daily news media.
We have been rigorously taught platitudes all of our lives and one of the most pernicious is the individual’s inalienable right to the presumption of innocence.
Tell that to Jian Ghomeshi ( Jian Ghomeshi trial’s not guilty decision triggers outrage ) or anyone else accused of a crime, serious or otherwise. Long before “due process”, as a consequence of “secret” investigation by so-called journalists, Ghomeshi lost his job and his livelihood, his reputation as a first-class radio host (which he was,) and his presumption of innocence. In the minds of many, many people, he was and to this day, in spite of his recent acquittal on all five charges that were before the courts, guilty.I paid attention to the case. His “day in court” (a euphemism to describe his two-month-long trial) was as sound and fair a process as I have ever seen. And the result unequivocally correct. Given the quality of the evidence against him and the character of the witnesses, the fact that they deliberately lied under oath and only supplied police and prosecutors with the information they decided prosecutors and police needed to hear, any other conclusion would have been a travesty.
The vast majority of citizens pay absolutely no attention to the machinations of our judicial system. Ignorance has never stopped anyone from forming strong opinions and forcible expressing them. Reminds me of a line out of Camus’ “The Plague” about what the citizens were busy doing while the city officials were busy closing the gates; busy forming uninformed views.
On the other hand, I know a great deal about how it works, or doesn’t, having been a life-long student of police behavior and practices as well as the court system. But what gives me an unique perspective is the fact for a ten-year period I was the object of intense police investigations on two continents and three countries, twice arrested and charged with over one hundred criminal offences, sued by Attorney General Michael Bryant as “an enemy of the State” and vigorously prosecuted to the “full extent of the law.” That is a school of hard knocks that no one attends voluntarily but it does bestow an esoteric knowledge.
Mine is not just another opinion.
The reality: the moment someone is accused of a crime they are considered by neighbors, friends and family (with the possible exception of mothers,) to be guilty and condemned to the criminal class for all time, their lives inexorably altered hitherto fore.
In the collective mind the narrative runs like this: Joe/Jane must be guilty or else how would they have attracted the attention of the police in the first place let alone “got themselves” arrested. They must have done something.
At this point whatever is good in their lives is tarnished, their reputations besmirched, and depending on the charge(s) their careers suddenly on life support or completely destroyed.
“Completely destroyed” is especially true when the charges are sex related particularly when they have to do with sex crimes involving children under the age of sixteen.
The ultimate atmosphere of Gene Pitney’s “Town without Pity” becomes the thin air an accused must breath.
There are many problems in this hornet’s nest of fact and fiction, the idea of presumptive innocence and the assumptive guilt.
For instance, most associations and collectives working on behalf of wrongfully accused and convicted persons believe, although seldom say so, that the police and the courts get it wrong at least fifty percent of the time. I believe it’s more like sixty.
Prior to the advent of J. Edgar Hoover in the 40s things were different. Hoover is the progenitor of modern policing and its modus operandi.
Hoover was the first data miner, a dark genius who well knew the illusory nature of the enterprise. He was z ring master of the machinations of public and media relations toward perpetual metastasized police budgets entirely derived from the public purse. To this day, police are schooled in something openly called “tricks and lies”. Hoover was the master trickster and a unrepentant liar. The conventional wisdom: Criminals lie so police must too.
I digress. Suffice it to say I am not naive. The naming of persons of suspicion, targets for arrest and arrestees is not going to change. But at least it should be recognized for the travesty it is and the first step on the road to perdition. And, perhaps, cause a few to think twice. Crown has big decision before Ghomeshi’s next trial