02 July 2011

They Couldn't Make The Case

Today I'm going out on a limb to talk about something that I expect to generate controversy for years to come (as if I haven't done anything like that before!).  I'm going to talk about the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at least to the extent that I know about it.

Yesterday he was released from house arrest.  Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. felt he had no other choice; almost all of the evidence was circumstantial.  Of course, some people are not happy about this.  I imagine DSK, as he's often called in France, is one of them:  He lost his chairmanship of the International Monetary Fund and, possibly, his chance to be elected President of France.  Also, any number of feminists and the lawyer of the woman who accused DSK of sexually assaulting her are upset:  Kenneth P. Thompson, the lawyer representing the woman, is imputing racism to Vance and anyone else who can't find a legal or moral reason to keep DSK in custody.  (The woman is from Guinea and was the housekeeper in the hotel where DSK stayed.)  

Now, of course, I can't tell you what actually happened between the housekeeper and DSK.  However, I think the fact that the woman changed her story and made any number of false statements to get and stay in this country, and reap whatever benefits she could from being here, certainly makes her seem less credible.  On the other hand, DSK does have a reputation for sexually aggressive behavior with women.  Of course, as one famous jurist said, trying someone on the basis of his or her reputation does not lead to justice. 

For me, DSK is certainly not a sympathetic figure.  That does not, however, make him guilty--at least not by itself.  His reputation might establish that he is capable of committing sexual assault, but it does not necessarily mean that he actually did the things of which he has been accused.  By the same token, the fact that the woman was poor and a member of a race that experiences bigotry doesn't, by itself make her an innocent victim.

I mention these things because I want to make sure that the justice system does what it's supposed to do.  In this country, that includes ensuring that innocent people aren't locked up.  

Also, as someone who was sexually abused (by a friend of the family) and who was later sexually assaulted, I know how serious those crimes are.  So, even though I want the perpetrators of such crimes brought to justice, I want to be sure that the persons arrested, tried and sentenced, are the guilty ones.  If the wrong person is punished, it does not bring closure or relief, or anything else a victim should have.  All it does is to ensure that there is yet another victim.