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The rush to judgment continues


As I write this, the cable news channels have been covering the breaking story of a shooting at an A.M.E. church in South Carolina.

Nine people are dead, including a state senator. Dylann Roof, 21 has been charged in the shooting.

Earlier this week it was reported that the St. Louis Cardinals organization has been under investigation for allegedly hacking into the computer system of their former National League rivals, the Houston Astros.

I have previously stated my skepticism about the veracity of early reporting of events as they are unfolding.

Very often a narrative is established that undermines the accused before a single piece of evidence is recovered and examined or a single word of testimony is given under oath.

Answer this: Which Constitutional rights have been abridged when a person is lynched? The 14th Amendment establishes that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens and that no state may abridge the rights of citizens. More to my point, the 14th Amendment states, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” This part of the 14th Amendment amounts to extending Fifth Amendment rights to state law as well as federal law.

Lynching was an extra-legal (now federally illegal) method for obtaining justice, as seen through the eyes of those who commit the act and those who acquiesce to the act. Now imagine that you are a school administrator, and you receive word that a student has made the accusation of being sexually assaulted, and the student provides an identity of the alleged assailant. Would you A. Tell the accuser to call the police, B. Call the police yourself, C. Call the student’s parents, or D. Convene a committee to investigate the charges?

I suspect that in the case of a school district administrator, options B and C might be appropriate. But on some college campuses, option D is taken. It has been reported that in some cases those accused of sexual assault on campus, who are examined by campus investigating committees, are required to testify without the right of legal counsel. In the University of Virginia fake rape accusation, reported as if true by Rolling Stone magazine last year, the accused is named and the accuser, who has since been revealed as a serial liar, remains anonymous. Rape is a terrible crime, but it is not remedied by making false accusations.

Campus disciplinary panels are extra-legal authorities, presumably designed to protect the school and the students, but, in my opinion, they may also be depriving the accused of their constitutional rights. If the only purpose of a lynch mob and campus disciplinary committees is to deter certain types of behavior, then the frame-up of the innocent works just as well as the punishment of the guilty — so long as the public thinks the accused is guilty.

Dylann Roof will have the right to an attorney for his defense, as well as all of the rights afforded by the Constitution. The Cardinals probably have a whole law firm working with them.

Both those who are accused of a crime or are being investigated are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In campus assault cases, no less of a standard should be allowed.

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