Thursday, September 27, 2018

What is Justice?

I don't know whether Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Ford during his time in high school. I doubt most other people do either, regardless of how much they bloviate on twitter, Fox, or MSNBC.
After today's Senate hearing I may or may not move in either direction as to my belief in the story.

But there are a few issues raised by the reaction by some to this accusation which are to put it mildly, troubling.  It is true that Kavanaugh is not on criminal trial, has no inalienable right to be on the Supreme Court, and thus can not lay claim to the protective standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt". But whether you support or do not support Kavanaugh there are some standards which are or rather should be universally accepted by Americans, at least fair minded ones. If we want to get rid of these standards we might as well get rid of the justice system and the country altogether. Because neither institution holds together without these standards. If we don't want mob rule then we have to keep these basic protections in mind.

Innocent until proven guilty
Just because someone makes a claim doesn't mean that the claim is true. Even if we believe that the claim is true we still must go thru the motions necessary to prove guilt. Now what's necessary to prove "guilt" in a criminal trial where someone's life or freedom is at stake is a greater burden than what's necessary to prove guilt in trying to figure out who stole your iced coffee from the office refrigerator. But even in the latter case, just saying that the new guy did it doesn't make it so.

The accuser has the burden of proof
If you make a claim it's up to you to provide evidence. It's not up to the accused to prove that he didn't do something.  And the accused has the right and the duty to challenge your claim, challenge your credibility, point out holes in your logic or story, or point out that you're someone who has made false claims all over the place. In short if you step in the ring to throw punches at someone, you can't get offended that they defend themselves by throwing punches right back.

Morality is not determined by your immutable characteristics
Black people lie. White people lie. Gay people lie. Straight people lie. Midwesterners lie. Southerners lie. Men lie. And yes, women lie. We can't assume that anyone is telling the truth simply because of what they look like. There is evidence that every human being on this earth is quite capable of lying. This feminist idea that we should always believe women is stupid!!! Pure chauvinist hokum. Don't believe me? Crystal Mangum is a woman. She lied. Wanetta Gibson is a woman. She lied. Carolyn Bryant is a woman. She lied. Nikki Yovino is a woman. She lied. Danmell Ndonye is a woman. She lied. Tawana Brawley is a woman. She lied. Treva Throneberry is a woman. She lied. Mary Zolkowski is a woman. She lied. And so on. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It can be tempting for some to believe that women are wonderful beatific creatures who would never hurt anyone needlessly but that's not reality. Women are no less or no more moral than men. I believe that the vast majority of rape allegations are likely true just as the vast majority of auto theft or home invasion allegations are true. But statistics tell you nothing about a particular individual case. That's why we must have investigations and occasionally trials.

Guilt by association isn't fair
I am not overly fond of police. I have had and seen some negative interactions with police over the years. But if I were empanelled on a jury where a police officer was accused of a crime it would be TOTALLY irrelevant and illogical for me to argue that THAT particular officer must be guilty because some other police officer called me out of my name twenty two years ago. And it would be a low-handed tactic for me to attempt to bully other jurors into finding that officer guilty by saying that if they didn't they are calling me a liar or acting in support of police misconduct or brutality. If a defendant is found guilty it should be because the evidence in his particular case "proves" or at least strongly suggests he's guilty of the charge. It should not be because he's a member of a group you don't like. Pointing to someone's race or class or friends or looks or politics as a reason to suggest he probably did what he's accused of doing is unfair. It will lead to inaccurate results on average.

We should do our best to put aside our emotions and hysteria and personal anecdotes and review the evidence which we have before we make a decision on anything as serious as allegations of sexual assault. Always. I want to uphold these standards even for people I do not like because I want the same standards to protect me. 

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