Two fundamental underpinnings of a just jurisprudence system are due process and a presumption of innocence.
If due process is honored, then mob rule is precluded and the accused has a right to a full defense of any charges raised against him. If a presumption of innocence is honored, it is the accusers’ responsibility to prove the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
If both of these safeguards are in place we are assured as much as is humanly possible that justice will prevail. The weakness of providing these rights to anyone accused of wrongdoing is that a small percentage of the time, a guilty person is freed...but, we’ve always believed as a civilized society that it is better 10 guilty be acquitted than one innocent convicted and punished unjustly.
These two fundamental principles of justice have stood the test of time through centuries of law...however today in America these principles are under siege.
In search of security, we have established a special court...the FISA Court...where the accused is not present to hear or have representation to defend against the charges being brought. It is under this approach that illegal wiretaps have been authorized and NSA has been allowed to collect “meta-data” on every American without a warrant. It is under this approach that the government has circumvented the personal privacy rights guaranteed every American in the constitution. There is no “due process” in the FISA court.
Benjamin Franklin writing of the challenges of balancing the authority of the state against the right of its citizens proclaimed, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
A more current attempt to abridge these fundamental pillars of justice has received nation-wide attention recently. In pursuit of justice for real crimes, the #MeToo movement has run rough shod over the presumption of innocence and due process. In the rightful passion in the pursuit of real criminals (Epstein, Weinstein, et. al.), the basic rights of the accused have often been ignored.
Sir Thomas Moore whose life is the basis for the Academy Award winning movie “A Man for all Seasons” addressed this issue very profoundly saying, “I would uphold the law if for no other reason than to protect myself.” Imagine yourself wrongly accused and stripped of due process and presumption of innocence. How do you defend yourself? Once convicted in the court of public opinion, how do you get your reputation restored?
These ideas of “presumption of innocence” and “due process” which have been historically present in our marketplaces and in our neighborhoods have broken down. We must begin to restore these basic principles of civility to our public conversation. Our society needs a healthy dose of a “presumption of good faith”...and a new commitment to “due process” by allowing both sides equal opportunity to make their case.
Let us commit to extending a “presumption of good faith” to our neighbors and co-workers and begin again to give “due process” to others by listening to other points of view.
Let’s agree to lower the volume of the debate. Rather than approach those with opposing points of view convinced of their malice, we need to give each other a presumption of good faith and listen to opposing points of view.
Who’ll go first???