Innocent until proven guilty. Right. Sure. Not so much.
I keep waiting for someone to give me a reasonable and logically sound justification for why the press is free to print the name of a person accused of a sexual assault in the military but never the accuser. Oh, I have heard many reasons before – we don’t want to silence victims from coming forward. Okay, fine. How about when he’s acquitted? Oh, not enough? How about when the defense goes beyond raising doubt? How about when the defense demonstrates beyond doubt that the allegation was false, and not false in the sense that it failed to meet elements or the government failed to meet its burden, but when the complaining witness fabricated the allegation? Can we print the name of the accuser then?
Mid-July the Army Times decided they would print a story containing my client’s name, a brief recitation of his past few assignments, the one he was relieved from because he stands accused of a crime. The command knew it was coming, and they failed to warn my client. A high ranking military authority apologized to him three times for not bothering to let him know the story would run. Instead, his phone started blowing up about the story.
The comments, social media posts, and cartoon drawings that are a now circulating about him, all concluding his guilt before we have ever had any day in court are… well, not altogether astonishing. Deplorable? Yes. Surprising? Unfortunately, no. Let’s not forget the Soldier who cussed him as he strolled past him. Par for the course.
But we won’t spook at every ill word that’s being spoken. We will block out the noise. Because that is all it is at this point. Noise. Hurtful, malicious, oppressive and revolting? All of it. But it is noise. And it says a great deal more about those uttering it than it does about my client.
We are compiling a collection of survival techniques for persons falsely accused. Chief among them is to learn ways to block out the noise, the voices of those who have already concluded guilt, the looks, the whispers, the blatant disrespect, and the isolation. Even in the silence of isolation it is resoundingly deafening. It is all noise.
Ways of blocking out the noise is different for many facing the sometimes seemingly insurmountable task of refocusing on what matters: surviving. For some, it is meditation; for others an exercise regime to get out of one’s head. Still others throw themselves into their defense. That’s always my preference. Every time those thoughts of doubt creep in, I remind clients that they know their truth, God knows their heart, and so do I. Each client is instrumental in his own defense. So, I refocus the client on how he can help. But first, he has to block out the noise. And do it again, and each time that the voices crowd his thoughts.
I don’t have all the answers and never pretend to, but what I do know is that when those not so quiet comments reverberate across the web, are messaged far and wide, and even uttered in a client’s direction, it is a comment on my most client’s fundamental “guarantee”: the presumption of his innocence. People want to presume his guilt? I can’t stop them. But I can do everything in my power to silence the noise: one trial at a time.
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