Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

Why is it that someone can be found not guilty of a serious crime, but can never remove the stigma associated with the accusation? Michael got off -- not once, but twice -- on criminal child molestation charges. Charges against Kobe were quickly dismissed. R. Kelly has yet to be convicted of statuatory rape. Our legal system seems to work just fine... but our collective brain seems to be stuck on stupid.

Michael Jackson is guilty of only one thing: loving people too much and putting himself in a silly predicament more than once. Some argue that he must have been guilty, since he settled out of court -- which would be the wrong train of thought.

What people fail to realize is that the boy's family initially suggested settlement. They said that they would cease the pursuit of their civil suit if he would fork over the money. Not wanting to be subjected to continued ridicule and scrutiny, MJ decided to pay up. He negotiated the family down and settled out of court -- but not before the multitude of reports that he had been accused (or in our society, found guilty) of inappropriate behavior. Little do folks know, it was later found that there was not enough evidence to go forward with the criminal case and it was dropped.

The second time around, MJ decided to fight the charges in court -- and the jury found him not guilty. Now, I'm not sure if it was because he'd already been in trouble for it once (and didn't learn his lesson about letting the children be around him in that setting), but folks just couldn't seem to understand that a verdict of NOT GUILTY means that there wasn't suffficient evidence to suggest that the charges brought against the man were valid... so why is it that he was referred to constantly as a child molester? Because we don't know how to separate accusations from the truth.

At one point, Kobe Bryant's lawyer argued that "using the word 'victim' constitutes a kind of prejudicial communication that could taint the process" (ed. note: SO true). Makes sense when you consider that although the charges were dropped, that didn't stop people from calling Kobe a rapist & despising his very existence. You don't have to like him, but why are so many still holding something against him that was not proven to be true?

R. Kelly may never get a fair shake, on account of the type of music that he normally performs. He has proven himself as a singer-songwriter, responsible for many huge hits -- including "Fortunate" (Maxwell) and "You Are Not Alone" (Michael Jackson). Neverthelesss, he also had a penchant for freakier fare -- which is why it was so feasible that he might have committed statuatory rape. At one point, there was a video floating around that was purported to feature him bathing the young lady in a "golden shower." As of yet, he has not been convicted... but will that stop folks from calling him a rapist until proven otherwise? Highly doubtful.

When does it stop? What happened to the presumption of innocence? I was pretty sure that it was how we did things here in the US. For example: An Idaho man named Charles Fain was convicted of kidnapping, assaulting & murdering a 9 year-old. After spending 18 years on Death Row, DNA evidence was tested -- proving that he was in fact not the perpetrator. This man was incorrectly placed on DEATH ROW, but proven to be innocent. Are there those that will think twice about walking near this man or having him around their children? You bet. Wanna know why? Because we're allergic to the facts.

Maybe one day we'll get over this prevailing mentality... but I have a feeling that the healing won't begin until the media stops plastering biased information everywhere. Tupac & Roman Polanski were actually CONVICTED of violent crimes -- but they still sold plenty of records & won an Oscar, respectively. Backwards, huh?

If we went back to the days when the media served only the purpose of disseminating information (rather than spreading one-sided opinion pieces), then maybe -- just MAYBE -- people would have a decent chance of shaking accusations... especially AFTER being found NOT GUILTY.

< /rant >


Music Snob said...

Having a case dropped or settling out of court is NOT the same as being found not guilty. However, I do agree with you that any kind of accusation does follow you regardless of the outcome of a trial which is an unfortunate reality.

Lauren said...

You know where all of this comes from... the media. The writers, producers, editors, etc. often use misleading headlines and story leads to get people's attention. With such short attention spans today, people are skimming and not actually reading the articles. From there, folks just mix whatever story they want with their opinion to get something they call "factual".

While Michael and R Kelly should be held EXTREMELY liable for the situations they put themselves in, we are not to judge the outcomes. We are not perfect and we weren't there so we don't know the story.

Plus, we're asking people who are celebrities to make common sense decisions when everyone doesn't have common sense. Think about the people in your life who don't have common sense. Now imagine those same people with (in my Dr. Evil from Austin Powers voice) $1 million dollars. You know their decisions would be that much worse.

That being said, we can't crucify those without sense just because they are celebrities. All we can do is worry about what's going on in our lives.

Not Your Average Male said...

You're right, Dr. Snob -- it's not the same as being not guilty.

What I just don't like is that a mere accusation often bears the same stigma as a guilty plea. It's terribly unfair and I would hate for this to happen to someone I care about. They'd never be able to get the stink off.