The biggest item in the news last week was the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has been rated ‘well qualified’ by the American Bar Association but two days before the Justice Committee was to vote, allegations of sexual assault surfaced from when he was in high school.
The news is big enough that it can’t be ignored but, frankly, Thinking Man has debated what to say on the topic, not because there isn’t plenty to say but because the issue, to quote Sen. Jeff Flake, “is tearing our country apart”. Opinions on the topic have been passionate and unwavering, each convinced so clearly that they are right that they also think the other ‘side’ not just wrong but downright evil.
The one thing that I think we can say, and which most would agree-though not necessarily for similar reasons, is that the process has been a terrible one. No one has been happy with it and all would agree it needs to be changed.
Let me propose one change to the process, which is just a re-emphasis of the Constitution. That re-emphasis is that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a preponderance of the evidence. Surprisingly, that will be a controversial statement. Some reading that will immediately say that would be giving Kavanaugh ‘a pass’. And THAT is very scary, and actually very dangerous.
It should not be considered radical to presume that everyone is innocent until evidence proves they committed a crime. But in this environment that seems to be the case. If you are one who assumes a person is guilty just because of an accusation, then you need to look in the mirror.
Yes, I realize that it takes a lot of courage for crime victims to come forward, probably much more so in a crime such as sexual assault which is a violent crime of power. However, that does not mean that anyone can have someone guilty of a crime without proving the case. For all those that disagree with that ‘radical’ concept, it’s not a ‘blame the victim’ issue, it’s an issue it’s a fundamental issue of evidence and proving someone is a criminal before sentencing them. One need only look back to the relatively recent example of the Duke University lacrosse team. In that case, several members of the team were accused of rape, vilified in the press, even more so because of an added element of racism in the accusations. Those young men had their lives upside down and were financially devastated by legal fees, only for it to finally come out that the accusations had been totally made up.
In the Kavanaugh case, some point to the fact that there are now multiple accusers that have surfaced in the last two weeks. Accusations should be examined. On the other hand, this almost always happens. And before someone proverbially rolls their eyes at that comment, let’s look at some of the accusations. One allegation actually was previously part of an FBI investigation and was dismissed. Another ‘allegation’ was sent by mail, with the letter unsigned, not dated and with no return address. A third said that Kavanaugh was part of a gang rape, yet the woman who made that charge had a story so wild, including the fact that she regularly attended parties where she said she knew gang rapes happened, that Allyson Cammarata of CNN found it hard to believe and challenged the attorney representing the alleged victim in the case when interviewing him.
A recent case serves as a contrast. Bill Cosby was accused of an outrageous sexual assault. Soon, multiple other accusers surfaced. The case went to trial, Cosby was convicted and sentenced to prison. That’s how it should be for all criminals who are guilty of sexual assault. Not only the end result, but also that the accusation required proof, which in this case there was. There was proof, and he was convicted and has been sentenced to prison. His crimes were heinous and he is getting exactly what he reserves.
One result of the Senate hearings is that the FBI will investigate the allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. This is what opponents asked for, even those who opposed Kavanaugh long before the allegations surfaced. So, everyone will abide by what the FBI finds? If the FBI finds that there is no contemporaneous corroborating evidence, will opponents drop their concerns? Or if the FBI finds a preponderance of evidence that Kavanaugh committed a crime, will supporters drop their endorsement? Is anyone holding their breath on that one?
Thinking Man will take self-advice, and withhold judgment until the findings come in. I think it’s an easy bet that the FBI will find that Kavanaugh drank a lot and partied as a college student. It probably he violated laws against underage drinking. On the substantive issues of sexual assault, we can hope that the FBI findings result in a clear path to a criminal paying for his crime, or to an innocent man being left alone and able to begin restoring his reputation.