Friday, April 15, 2016

Two trials in Toronto: On Jian Ghomeshi and due process

            Jian Ghomeshi is a creepy douchebag, who, until recently, was one of the chief arbiters of Canadian culture. Think about that for a minute. What does it say about a country’s art scene that would choose to be represented by such a goof? I digress.

            A lot of things have come out about this demented hipster lately that leaves little doubt in most people’s minds that he is a narcissistic letch; but there just wasn’t enough to convict him of a crime.

            This has made a lot of people understandably upset, and inspired many to call for drastic changes to the system. Just what kind of changes I’ll leave to the experts, but in this highly emotionally charged atmosphere, I would caution everyone to remember that a conviction is never guaranteed.

            If there is one thing that protects us from the wrath of dictators, or the hysteria of the mob, it is that. It’s what separates democracies from tyrannies, free societies from closed ones. Innocence is the default assumption, allegations must be proven, and everyone, but everyone, gets to defend themselves.

           Now I would never make excuses for an evident scoundrel like Ghomeshi. But I would never deny him his trial either. Some seem upset that there was a trial at all. What they apparently wanted was an automatic conviction in a kangaroo court. Many are angry with the Defense lawyer, Marie Henein, but don’t specify how they themselves would have conducted the defense, or what sort of defense they would have allowed under their ideal system. These are not technicalities; until such things are specified, calls for change aren’t much more than demands for a witch-hunt.  And while “I believe the victims” hashtags all sound very nice, they do reject outright the presumption of innocence.

            There probably are changes that do need to be made to the justice system, there are indeed things that the law and society at large need to do to improve the lot of victims, and there is possibly the political will to do it now. But whatever changes end-up being made, don’t forget that a conviction is not supposed to be easy, and it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove guilt. If there’s anyone the demonstrators should be angry with, it’s the prosecutors, who completely failed to make the case; it was their responsibility, their opportunity, and their bungle. Any reforms that weaken the threshold of evidence or weaken citizen’s rights to defend themselves would not serve justice any better.

            In the aftermath of the acquittal, it may be of some comfort that Ghomeshi is not getting off scott-free. His life is ruined, his career is over, and he's got no one but himself to blame. He’s not getting his job back at the CBC; he will never work in broadcasting again. He will be lucky to scrub the toilets at any radio station from here on in. He’s the public face of sleaze: who’s going to hire him?  He will be lucky to appear in public without getting pelted with lettuce. No one will read his book. No one will remember or care about Q, or Play, or Moxy Fruvous. Nothing he does again will ever matter. He will only be remembered as a guy who liked to hurt women. It will be the denouemant of his Wikipedia entry, and main plot of his obituary. For a narcissistic primadonna like him, that’s probably a worst punishment than anything the judge could have handed down.  

       His day in court seems almost irrelevant. 

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