What Happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

young bill cosbyThe parade of women with allegations against popular comedian Bill Cosby is almost non-stop, actresses, models and celebrity wives recalling alleged incidents from ten, twenty, even thirty years or more ago. Their claims are enough for many people in the media and the public to find Cosby guilty and condemn him, and Cosby’s having gigs cancelled, a re-run of The Cosby Show cancelled and much more adverse impact on his life.

Meanwhile, locally, a University of Colorado Boulder student is suing the school after he was accused of rape and suspended for three semesters without actually being convicted of the alleged crime. The co-ed claimed rape, he claimed their pairing was consensual, and the University sided with her based purely on her allegations and suspended him before any investigation.

What do these have in common? An underlying assumption of guilt based on allegations.

I find this chilling because I believe one of the great American tenets is the legal dictum of innocent until proven guilty. 

The alternative, of having someone accuse a man that “he forced me…” or “he drugged me…” or “I changed my mind and he wouldn’t listen…” and that then being sufficient for them to be tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion and condemned to whatever consequences the public believes appropriate, well, that’s a horrible world to live in, a place where innocent men and women can have their lives destroyed at the whim of another.

Now I don’t know if Cosby is innocent or guilty, nor do I know the circumstances around the alleged rape that occurred at CU Boulder, but I know this: if these are legitimate accusations, then we have a legal system that’s quite capable of investigating and finding out the truth of the situation.

And in the meantime, just because someone says something happens that doesn’t mean that’s what actually occurred. Even if other people say “me too” ten, twenty or thirty years later.

Let’s keep that in mind when we watch people pile on the anti-Cosby bandwagon…

7 comments on “What Happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

  1. This is nonsense written by someone very immature. Plenty of bright people have committed crimes and gotten away with them, simply because of the holes in the system, incompetence on the part of prosecutors, witnesses and plaintiffs afraid to speak up (with good reason in many cases), etc. So the assertion that our system works is just plain BS. It works some of the time. In other cases, we have little choice but to turn to a public airing. And since I had to deal with Cosby decades ago in fund raising, I had no trouble finding the women credible. He was a jerk and too powerful to mess with in many cases, so I side with the women, not the naïve who think he is “innocent until proven guilty.” He should share a cell with O.J.!

    • I appreciate your perspective, Ben, and you can have your perspective. My piece isn’t so much about Cosby himself but about our modern culture of “once accused, twice guilty”, which I think is a major problem. The court of public opinion is so easily swayed, that’s why we have a justice system at all. And is it perfect? No. But it sure beats a kangaroo court.

      • Agree, the court system allows attorneys to lie, miss represent evidence and purposely twist facts in order to get a winning under there belt no matter who’s life they destroy. This system is fixed for real criminals to take pleed deals and play the system while falsely accused are striped of their constitutional rights to a fair trial. So many people are so miss understood about how the system really works and need to educate or experience it their selves. Just because someone is accused of sexual assault does not always mean its true. People do make up stories for personal agenda’s.

  2. I disagree strongly, on several key points.

    First, you state: “We have a legal system that’s quite capable of investigating and finding out the truth of the situation”.

    For sexual assault crimes against women, that’s simply not true. Countless studies shows that these assaults are massively under-reported by victims and that, when they *are* reported, the assailants very rarely face punishment. The system doesn’t work.

    Most of the accusers in the Cosby case are not “me too” situations a decade or two later. For most of them, the events were reported contemporaneously – sometimes through official complaints, sometimes not – but not pursued through to arrest.

    I also disagree with conflating the Cosby case with the CU case (on which I’m closer to agreeing with you). Sexual assault accusations against powerful and prominent individuals are even more difficult to pursue, simply because of that power and prominence.

    Finally, “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal distinction. Businesses and individuals frequently make decisions based on information available, without that legal requirement. If I want to stop watching Cosby’s art, based on the accusations, that’s OK.

    That distinction is part of the difference between the CU case and the Cosby case. For the CU case, the university has some obligation of “due process” before taking action against the accused student. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know the details of the distinction, but I’m convinced they’re real.

    So, in the end, I disagree.

  3. As usual, no one will say the obvious. Bill Cosby is powerful, popular mulatto, passing as a full african amercian. As a powerful african amercian, like obama, he gets gets a free pass on almost everything from traffic citations, where the cop apologizes for pulling him over, to much more serious allegations. The white woman, darling of the left wing takeover of the usa, from 1968 an onward (this is when jane fonda committed treason, and Nixon did not have the gonads to do utterly anything about it), are now clearly lowered to number 2 status. White ladies are shocked at this massive loss of status to the magic afican american. Hey, they voted for it, demanded it, and now are suffering under it. Yet still too stupid to look at for what it is.

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