Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Guilty by the Numbers? Beyond the Judgement of Solomon

Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby and now New Year’s Eve in Cologne. Sometimes women do bad things, but mostly it is us men. The Judgement of Solomon obviously doesn not work here. But does character?

mistress in jodhpurs and boots whips red ass of a slave
If his ass turns red after 11 strokes, he must be guilty. Of what?
Challenging her. Mistress is always right even if she is not. Q.E.D.

Whether you like it or not – consensual BDSM can blur the lines. But for the most part it is straight forward. No means no. Always. Forever. That is why it is called no. Still that does not help.

As I mentioned before indignation reached peak political correctness in the case of Jian Ghomeshi. The number of female accusers was so overwhelming, he simply must have done it. Most likely. I think. But that is not the same as justice, let alone lock up a predator. Justice needs to prevail for many reasons, making sure a predator no longer roams the streets is one of the most important.

So what does it tell us numerous people come forward, but only after the first does. Apart from the fact that it is difficult to do so, not too much. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Enter character, aka previous accusations.

(In)justice? 
I am no legal scolar, so forgive me if I understand wrong. The New Yorker writes about “The Central Question in the Bill Cosby Case” Both Pennsylvania and Federal Penal Code have a rule 404:

“Evidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.”

If you stand trial for bank robbery, a prior conviction for drunk driving would almost certainly be inadmissible. (If a defendant takes the stand, however, judges generally allow prosecutors to use prior bad acts in cross-examination—which is a major reason that so few defendants testify in their own defense.)

That is just as complicated as it seems. It requires the jury to assess both the claims of defender and accusers at its merits. It also is where the law of many comes into play. If you are accused of something and there a lot of people who testify against you, you must have done it. Or kind of.

Of course it makes sense. Nobody testifies against someone unless they have too. Most people acknowledge the fact that it is more dangerous to lock up the wrong person than have a guilty party walk free. But it is not that easy – justice never is.

“the rule states that prosecutors cannot introduce evidence that a defendant is a generically bad person, but they can show that a defendant had a criminal modus operandi—a pattern or a signature—illustrating the way in which he is alleged to have broken the law.”

So if there are enough established prior acts, someone is more likely to be guilty. Sensible, because after all, past relevant behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour.

We all agree, that given the choice who to believe, the past plays a role in determining one’s guilt.
But wait a minute, remember the DSM and kinky people being clinically insane? We’re no longer, thank goodness. It is complicated nonetheless.

Knock, knock
For the most part justice is an abstract concept. At times I believe the best solution is a baseball bat. When I think a little bit longer, what really matters is how to keep it from happening again. Lock someone up because the numbers say he [most likely] did it, so? It's why poor people usually end up in jail, but Christian Grey never will. Sounds nice, but what if we get it wrong and somebody you love is assaulted by the guy who didn’t go to prison.

Popular choices are for politicians. The rest of us needs to opt for the smart choice. Unfortunately I have no clue as to what that is.

The one thing I repeat over and over again is to make it easier for people to come forward. No fear, no shame, don’t judge them. Just a rock-solid investigation.

Finally: remember a slave doesn’t always have to say: “As you wish”. No need to explain, but if you have to, how about: “You knew this was coming” combined with a sturdy piece of wood, generally used in baseball, is the second best option. After all to serve is to protect. Before. Before all else fails. Or can happen. One day, they’ll probably use it against me.

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