Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Burden of Proof

In the legal system of the United States of America there is a little thing called the “burden of proof”. Although this protects the innocent, it can sometimes protect the guilty as well.

Like it or not, at times the guilty will escape because the lawyers, police, and our system in general did not do their job properly. It is called a burden because it is not an easy thing to achieve, nor should it be. As freedom loving people we do not want it easy to be thrown in jail.

When a high profile case comes along that we all watch intently, there are times when you feel that it's obvious that this clown is guilty. Sometimes it's amusing to discover that someone is arrested with almost zero proof that they committed a crime. They are arrested almost based on the concept of, “well it's obvious isn't it?”

Yesterday it was announced that in the state of Washington the elections for governor will remain in the Democrats hands in the form of Gov. Christine Gregoire. Apparently, the lawyers for Dino Rossi failed to make their case even though it seemed to some of us like it should have been a slam dunk.

The outcome was not the way I would have liked to see it end up, but sometimes that's the way the proverbial cookie crumbles.

I'm impressed with Dino Rossi's decision to end the fight there and not drag this thing on in some fit of whiny-butt rage, unlike a previous presidential candidate did. Instead he recognized that there was no way to appeal this decision to a higher court because the deck was obviously stacked against such a success. This is a good example of his intellect, common sense, and ability to make important decisions.

Now we await the outcome of the Michael Jackson trial. Is he guilty? We can only guess, but many think that the prosecution failed to make their case. If this is true, then shame on them for either failing to put a child molester into jail, or for arresting an innocent man.

When you arrest someone for a crime you had better make certain that you can prove that they did the crime. For example in the case of O.J. Simpson, many people felt that he was guilty, but the case was not strong enough, and became such a circus, that the results were not what people expected they should be.

Robert Blake is another instance where the burden of proof was not delivered. Was he guilty, or was he the victim of the media focusing on trying to nail a huge story to quench the public thirst for watching celebrities on trial?

This is not the fault of the criminals who have been set free, it is the fault of the detectives and lawyers for providing a case that is not as “bullet proof” as it should have been.

I can imagine that there are days when judges sit up on their throne wondering why a lawyer went down a certain path, or why they were attacking a particular case the way they did. I'm certain many judges have hated to let off people they knew darn well are guilty, but can't legally do anything about it because the lawyers were either too good, or horrible depending on what side of the fence they were on.

Do we enjoy knowing that criminals get set free? Of course not, but we should enjoy the fact that it isn't always easy to railroad anybody without the burden of proof being there.

Have you ever seen a “witch hunt” where you work? I have witnessed many of these, and have tried to take the wind out of the sails of as many as I could. I have also been the target of a few but as some folks quickly realize I don't roll over and play dead. You come after me you had better have your “burden of proof” etched in stone.

If you put anybody under a microscope, or push them hard enough, it's easy to take out just about anyone with time. The saying “nobody's perfect” applies to us all. Yes, even you.

I guess the whole point of this post is to recognize that our legal system works the way it does for a reason. We may not always agree with it, but it's the best we have until someone comes up with something better.

Finally, don't be quick to jump on the posse when someone is being attacked. Become the voice of reason and make certain that the investigation is not based on the willingness to take a person down instead of verifiable actions that justify punitive actions.

All of us need to learn to withhold our judgment of others until the burden of proof has been made.

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