May 21st, 2011
From my European perspective, the North American Justice system has with the recent arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn once again shown its ugly face and while I look at this face in disgust, it looks back at us without any shame.
But the fact remains it’s absolutely repulsive to see how the esteemed authorities often organize in high profile cases a public lynching parading defendants handcuffed and unshaven in front of the camera’s before the defendant has any possibility to defend himself against these charges.
It is often the beginning of a smear job which shall continue during the months to follow which offends all human dignity, arranging the pre-trial publicity in the court, undermining the dignity and honour of a person; thereby in some cases taking the innocent truth and twists this into a fatal lie. By publicly humiliating the defendant, in facto convicting him in the court of public opinion, his reputation is destroyed and this ends the career in most cases.
But my friends, we must be proud, this is truly the American way, which we as citizen of the World so much have come to admire, where “justice” triumphs over “evil”, and “right” triumphs over “wrong” or am I mistaken ….Is this what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the US constitution!
My dear friends, we must not be so harsh in our condemnation of such media spectacles, this daily peepshow which is brought to us live, that is as long as we are not its victim!
As has often been suggested by the media, this is only done with the “public interest” in mind and we “the public” should be grateful that our interests are so well served.
But as Ayn Rand observed there is no entity as “the public”, since the public is merely a number of individuals, any claimed or implied conflict of “public interest” with private interest means that the interest of some men are scarified to the interest of the interests and wishes of others. Since this concept is so conveniently undefinable, its use rests only on any given “gang’s” ability to proclaim that “The public”, c’est moi and this of course requires acceptable victim for the “gang”, preferable someone rich and powerful, to feed the hungry hyena’s, therefore I dare say “let the public good be dammed”!
But I can concede there is a tension between privacy, free speech and the public right to know as the media so unconvincingly claim they seek to serve the “public interest” and conclude in their nauseating expressions of self-interest using this hollow phrase “the public has the right to hear the full facts”.
I say “Hogwash”; this is about “gung ho” prosecutors, who can’t resist free publicity for higher office; the tabloids and their daily quest for increased media circulation and television ratings.
May I be so bold so say that the “primary question” in these matters is always “Did this event take place as suggested”, “is the defendant guilty or innocent as suggested.” There is also the interest of the supposed victim to think about. However I would prefer to see that “due process” is chosen over innuendo, gossip and “cowboy” justice.
Supposed crimes are easy to claim, but difficult to prove. But then it’s not necessary to prove, it’s enough to destroy the reputation of a person, make him socially unacceptable as is nowadays the strategy of Law enforcement officers in the United States and Canada, but also elsewhere.
From my personal perspective I can only conclude there is no “honour” and “integrity” in the North American Legal Justice system, where the impression is given that “guilty” or “innocent” do not matter, because justice is served by the instrument of plea bargain, which is the king of all rationale.
In prison there is a revolving door culture which needs to be re-evaluated and reformed just like the education system needs to be reformed in a country which has in excess of 14% of citizen which are functional illiterate which means that they do not have the ability to use reading, writing and computational skills in everyday life.
Functional illiteracy also shows its face in “corrective institutions.” According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The statistics back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
In the richest country on earth, 14 percent of Americans – 34 million men and women (one out of seven) cannot do these things. even if they can read they do not comprehend what they read, which is a disgrace for the richest country on earth.
With the justice system the “plea bargain” has become a refined art practiced by gifted public prosecutors and defence attorneys and “public humiliation” is part of this strategy, that is for those defendants who can afford gifted attorneys. The undesirables are sold down the river and the accused is limited to becoming a statistic testifying to the success of governments fighting crime.
But, I dare say “guilty” or “innocent” matters, whereby the law should be a gentle sheet which falls upon an accused and shows its unique shape beneath the sheet.
The line between “freedom” and “incarceration” is fragile; the power of the state “massive” and defendants having felt this power of the state are then waiting for their day in court. In fact most defendants “guilty or innocent “are already found guilty in the court of public opinion.
In general terms, from a European perspective, I like to ask the obvious naïve question to my American friends, “whatever has happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law” and “the protection of privacy rights” which in most civilized countries in Europe bars “authorities” from showing “defendants” with pictures of their arrest and being named in full in the media, only “defendants” can be named by their initials, during the period until they are convicted.
We in Europe are blessed to have the European convention of human rights, which is restrictive in its definition of privacy and does not allow these Anglo-Saxon excesses and ruthlessness in the media.
Also, how fortunate we are in Europe, having a more humane and civilized legal system, no capital punishment and professional Judges who do not have to satisfy the call of the often ignorant public opinion for keeping their job, as they are appointed by the state and are not elected by the public.