Unreasonable Doubt

Rape victims already find it horrendously difficult to report the crime that was committed against them. We have a culture that seems to go out of its way to find ways to blame the victim for what happened to her – “If she hadn’t been drunk/worn that short skirt/acted like a flirt it wouldn’t have happened.” – while telling women ‘Don’t get raped’ instead of telling men ‘Don’t rape’. They face the knowledge that they will almost certainly have to confront the person who violated them and stole so much from them in court, have their character mercilessly assaulted by a defence lawyer, and that there’s a good chance that they could be forced to relive the horror and the perpetrator for nothing as he could be acquitted. Those women who come forward display an immense level of courage.

So the news that the jurors in the trial of two NYPD officers for the rape of an intoxicated woman in her own home chose to acquit them, even though they were convinced they were guilty, because there was no DNA evidence, has just struck another blow against the effort to get more women to try to bring their attackers to justice. For one thing – it is extremely common for women who have been raped to shower immediately, to scrub and wash the horrible feeling of their rapist off of them as soon as they can. This case shows that now this could well mean the chances of their rapists being brought to justice have plummeted. And furthermore, the fact that the defendants in this case were police officers is likely to damage a lot of people’s faith in the justice system. People will ask: would they have been acquitted if they hadn’t been cops? How can you seek justice from those who are seemingly above it?

Here are snippets of what the jurors said. If their comments don’t enrage you, nothing will:

“[Kenneth Moreno] raped her,” the unidentified female juror tells DNAinfo. “There is no doubt in my mind.”But never mind that whole “beyond a reasonable doubt” business, today’s modern jury demands DNA. As juror John Finck, 57, explains, “We were strictly bound by the judge’s instruction that there must be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict the defendants of the major charges of the case.”

That does NOT mean there needs to be DNA evidence, but as one legal expert told the Post after the verdict was announced, “CSI has made things difficult, there’s no law saying that ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ means we show you DNA. It means ‘evidence that points to a moral certainty that is beyond dispute.'” “My heart breaks for her. I think the system failed her terribly,” says Hernandez, the juror who played a crucial role in the system that acquitted the cops.

“I think the system failed her terribly.” You’ve got to love that ‘system’, a convenient way for individuals like Hernandez to avoid responsibility for their own decisions that have an enormous impact on the lives of other human beings. It pops up all the time – when people die, when injustice happens, it’s the impersonal, ambiguous monolith of The System that’s to blame, not human error, not human failure, not human ignorance. This is why miscarriages of justice on both sides of the court and in other walks of life will continue to happen, because as long as we can all comfortably blame injustice on an abstract thing that doesn’t really exist, people can avoid accountability, the buck can be passed, and no effort need be made to educate people about crucial things like the definition of ‘reasonable doubt’.

But that’s not to say there aren’t problems with juries. The key is in that first word, ‘reasonable’. As we see here in this appalling case, juries are now seeing not just any doubt in their minds, but anything that could cause doubt as enough to vote in favour of the accused. This has always been one of the major flaws of trial by jury, and why I have long believed professional jurors would vastly improve justice systems. By throwing 12 random people together who likely as not know nothing about law, are not trained to think logically or weigh evidence, the result is that you are inevitably going to get ridiculous verdicts like this, because the jury is ignorant of what reasonable doubt actually is – and thus so frightened of sending an innocent person to jail that the tiniest of discrepancies get blown up into reasons not to convict.

 

 

 

The First Rule Of Sirota’s Holier Than Thou Club (UPDATED)

UPDATE: As the subject of this post has dropped by for a visit, I am going to clarify: I am not defending, and did not defend, the deliberate targeting of minority-dominated neighbourhoods for frisking, drug swoops etc. Nowhere did I even mention those in this post. I was responding to Sirota’s criticisms of the increase in the number of arrests and the money and time Bloomberg is choosing to spend on it. I think that’s pretty obvious when you read the actual paragraph in question. But then, I’m not chronically intellectually dishonest.

….is the rules must be constantly changed to deny all but David Sirota membership.

A theme you will often see with Salon’s twin beacons of supreme self-righteousness, David Sirota and Glenn Greenwald, is that they are ‘courageous’ for holding the opinions they do, for Evil Obama Cultists or Imaginary Evil Authority Figures are, as we speak, threatening to throw them in the gulag for daring to speak out against what most people see as sanity and common sense, but they see as the creeping onslaught of fascism.

Now Sirota goes even further in this narcissistic hogwash in his latest screed about a NYT’s reporter’s tweet on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legacy. This tweet, in fact (which I will agree is too deferential in tone for my liking too, but otherwise has valid points):

So what? Bloomberg shouldn’t be given any kudos at all for championing gay rights. He’s mayor of fucking New York City! The only place safer to support gay rights is a gay bar…in San Francisco! So yeah, big deal Bloomie. Or so says David Sirota, for whom being right (ie being of the same mind as Sirota) is now no longer enough to get you that Scooby Snack. No, now you have to be right while locked inside an asylum filled with lunatics, screeching howler monkeys and rabid dogs infested with fleas carrying the Black Death.

As mayor of the Big Apple, Bloomberg is a national political figure — and his positions supporting dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, backing gay marriage and defending the right of an Islamic center to be built in Lower Manhattan are certainly of national interest, laudable and pro-freedom. However, two of those three positions (Ai Weiwei and gay marriage) are hardly politically courageous in a socially progressive city like New York. More important, citing these three isolated examples to declare Bloomberg “The Freedom Mayor” who represents a “full-throated defense of liberty” is a propagandistic whitewashing of his larger anti-freedom record — and such hagiographic sloganeering is particularly disturbing coming from an allegedly objective meme-shaper like Barbaro.

Being a pragmatist, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Given that New York State’s last attempt to legalise gay marriage failed in the  Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo says the votes still aren’t there, the support of an independent, powerful political figure and former Republican could prove extremely useful. But there I go again, bringing common sense into the argument. And standing up for the 1st Amendment, the cornerstone of freedom in the Constitution,during the ridiculous fuss over the Park51 project,  is what I’d call a ‘full throated defence’ of liberty.

While there are many valid criticisms to be levelled at Bloomberg, the other criticisms Sirota offers are, to put it mildly, laughable. His chief concerns are the NYPD arresting people for possession of pot and ‘Big Brother’ surveillance cameras. Whether you think pot should be criminalised or not, the fact remains it is currently against the law and will be until the law is changed. What exactly are the police supposed to do – not enforce a law because some people don’t agree with it? You know, believing pot leads to people taking harder drugs is a perfectly legitimate position to have, and Bloomberg has every right to get tough on it if that is his position.

As for this ‘ZOMG Big Brother is watching us!!11eleventy!!” reaction to surveillance cameras, what these hysterical morons seem to forget is that the the cameras are recording to tape so they can be closely examined later in the event of a crime occurring, and people in the observation rooms are on the lookout for antisocial and criminal behaviour. They are not interested in watching you, Mr Par. A. Noid, adjust your tin foil hat every 5 seconds.