Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Duke Lacrosse

Well the DA got his perp walk. I know that TV pressies love it; Nancy Grace was beside herself when she introduced the story on CNN HLN. But i still thing Judge David Sentelle was right when he wrote:

The perp walk would be bad enough if the humiliation of the accused were the only intended or accomplished result. However, the walk, commonly conducted at such time as to achieve maximum media exposure, is displayed not just for family and neighbors of the accused, but for every potential juror who sees the front page of the newspaper or the beginning of the evening news.
(Discussion here.)

MKH blogging at Hugh Hewitt's place was sensible:

It's important to remember that, during this month-long national story, this is the first moment any lacrosse player has been even charged with a crime, though you wouldn't know it from the way people talk. The activists in my hometown have already taken the indictments as confirmation that they were perfectly warranted in smearing and convicting these guys in the court of public opinion before their trial, and they will undoubtedly continue to do it.

But the fact is they remain innocent until, as the saying goes. They shouldn't be presumed guilty because there are racial tensions in Durham; they are not guilty because they are white and privileged and their alleged victim was black; they are not guilty because there is a "culture of sexual entitlement" in collegiate athletics; they are not guilty because they had a stripper at their party; they are not guilty because making an example of them might "raise awareness" of all these important social issues and might, just might, prevent the rape of one woman.

No, they are guilty if, and only if, they raped this girl. We will have to wait and see, but the evidence to date at least allows for some skepticism.

A William Safire column from 15 October 1973 deserves the last word:

Indictment grammar and etymology are worth studying because they metaphorically preserve truths too soon forgotten: An indictment is an accusation handed up to a high bench where a judge sits, for further adjudication. The derivations in oldest dictionaries gives us the most up-to-the minute political guidance: An indictment means "the writing of a charge", while only a verdict means "the speaking of the truth."

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