Presumed Innocent

sentencing guidelinesIn the year 1980, you would have had to go to great lengths and much expense to communicate with one thousand people at once. Today, a thousand people are often only a couple of clicks away. News travels fast, and it seems rumor travels even faster in the digital age. “Fake news” websites are often confused for actual news even as the mainstream media huddle up and deliver the approved for delivery version filled with innuendo and shock value phrases that ride the edge of truth for the sake of ratings.

It can make for muddy waters.

Hot button topics with all the trappings wrapped up in neat packages for everyone to consume until they’re full of hate.

Memes pronouncing on complex issues as if a sentence will fix the problem.

146 character tweets sum up everything rather nicely, and we move on.

We as people tend to make snap judgements when it comes to criminal activity in general. Terrorism is even more acute. It’s valid. Terrorism is not an imagined threat, it’s certainly real. We look for answers when there’s a traumatic event. We look for reasons, something to explain why it happened. It’s natural.

The problem is, it also leads us to make snap judgements, based on limited facts that on the surface, may lead to conclusions that are ultimately wrong. The presumption of innocence. The accuser is no more or less important than the accused, regardless of their position or rank.

When we see events like the bombings in France, we are understandably moved with a great outpouring of emotion, of grief and anger.

We seek justice, but sometimes, in our anger, we lose sight of what justice is. We see it personally. That’s how we end up with Hatfields and McCoys. It becomes personal.

Social media is a double edged sword. It informs, but it’s also full of partisan views, some more subtle than others. It makes finding the truth harder and it causes people to make snap judgements based on preconceived ideas and beliefs that have nothing to do with the facts of the case in question.

In other words, we often convict people without a fair trial.

Despite my own feelings, concerns, questions, at the the end of the day, I know all of the facts are not in. That certainly leads to frustration, but it’s also central to what I do. I discover and present the facts, in situations that may look bad on the surface, in order to exonerate the accused. It’s what I do.

I’d urge everyone to step back and take a deep breath. Think about the information you have available and consider it might not be the whole picture. Presume innocence. Our entire legal system is founded on it.

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