Defending due process

I understand it is frustrating seeing someone put on trial only to see them walk out of Court, having been acquitted of the charges in what many would’ve called a “slam dunk” case. And the unfortunate response to these trials seems to be an attack on due process itself.

On Facebook I am subscribed to the page “Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes“, and I like a lot of what they share, but their recent example just didn’t sit well with me:


A lot of people believe adamantly that OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony got away with murder. If they’d thrown George Zimmerman in with this, then whoever created this would’ve had the trifecta on that one.

If this was intended to be sarcastic, their intentions fell flat because it is far from. When someone tried to point out that it is intended to be sarcasm, I said this:

Rachel and Margaret, there isn’t any sarcasm here to be observed. Simpson and Anthony were both acquitted by juries because there was not enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof. Holding up two acquittals as examples of Courts being “wrong” is absurd in the kindest terms.

And to anyone who might, don’t bother trying to argue the merits of the cases or whatever the facts of the matters are, as the trials are over and the acquittals set in stone, so whatever anyone has to say on the matter is immaterial.

Another person said this:

I too, must object to the use of these cases as examples of the court being wrong. The court, for a change, was absolutely right, in both cases, because it rejected crappy science. In the Casey Anthony matter, they couldn’t determine a cause of death but they COULD say it was murder? Absolutely garbage, and that tripe was coming from one of the leading forensic pathologists in the country. These were both, actually, excellent examples of the court getting it RIGHT, and not being influenced by hysteria and public opinion (as the anti-vaxx movement is trying to do) Maybe you should use the case of the Central Park 5…innocent boys sent away to prison, because THEN the courts got it wrong, partially because of media/public frenzy.

Later a person named Erin posted a couple comments, since removed, bashing people she felt were actually defending Simpson and Anthony, even going so far as to say that we’re “almost as bad as the anti-vaxxers”. Now I never watched the OJ Simpson trial. I was in high school at the time, and the trial went on during the day during the school year (though it did extend through the summer into the following fall), so I only saw whatever was reported on the news. And I never watched the Casey Anthony trial either, and the same with the George Zimmerman trial. And if you were to read through the other articles I’ve written on this blog regarding both cases, you’ll see I don’t defend either Zimmerman or Anthony. Instead what I am defending in discussing both cases is due process itself. And I said such on Facebook:

Actually Erin, I never saw either trial. Never watched OJ’s trial (I was in high school at the time, so couldn’t), and never watched the Casey Anthony trial either as I was never interested. As such, I’m not defending either. Instead I’m defending the due process that saw them acquitted, and the double jeopardy doctrines that mean they can never again be put on trial.

When you or anyone else puts up these two acquittals, or any other acquittal, as a demonstration of the court being “wrong”, you are attacking everyone’s right to due process, everyone’s right to be presumed innocent, merely because you “know” they are guilty. Umm, no you cannot know they are guilty, not unless you saw every single piece of evidence the investigators saw. Not unless you were part of the investigation that resulted in their arrests. Instead, like with vaccine science, all you can do is trust the right evidence was gathered and enough evidence was gathered to demonstrate the claim. And in the case of Anthony, Simpson and, I’ll add for good measure, Zimmerman, the evidence wasn’t their [sic] supporting the charges. Plain and simple.

And regardless of what you might think, they do still retain their right to be presumed innocent because of their acquittals. If you expect that right for yourself, respect it for everyone else.

There’s a big difference between defending a person and defending a principle. There’s a big difference between supporting a defendant and supporting their right to defend themselves against accusations. There is a big difference between defending what someone has done and the right to have those actions proven in a Court of Law beyond reasonable doubt.

I don’t defend the defendants. Instead I defend due process. I defend double jeopardy. I defend the processes to which I may one day become subject, and the rights that I want to be able to exercise should that happen. As I expect those rights and processes for myself, I defend them and respect them for everyone else.

The “court of public opinion” is a Court in which there is no presumption of innocence and no due process. All verdicts are determined before the actual criminal trial begins, and if the criminal trial results in a verdict that differs from the court of public opinion, then due process in the criminal court is itself attacked, the jury process attacked as well, and everyone’s rights suffer for it.

Yet it is a problem that is not going away any time soon, if ever.