Posted by: Martin Scherer | 04/07/2011

Oh dear what can the matter be? America has egg on its face.

 

Step back from the particulars of the case. Whether he violently raped her or not, whether she tried to entrap a rich man or not, that guilt will be determined by the court in due course. Step back and look at what happened on the steps outside the court.

Before the world’s media, the accusers’ lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, stood and accused the court of conspiring to release a guilty man. Thompson went into graphic, explicit detail of the reported offence. So graphic, the BBC found it necessary to warn its audience they might be offended by Thompson’s words.

Thompson repeated the details so many times, and so publicly, it is now a legitimate defence that a fair trail, appointment of an impartial jury, is impossible. The woman’s own lawyer has precluded the outcome of the case, that the charges will be dismissed. What defence lawyer would publicly destroy his own client’s case?

Thompson’s performance is described as outrageous, astonishing, never before seen in a western society. In fact it has, and on the steps of America courts. The scene in New York is reminiscent of the days when Negroes, usually Negro men, were accused of crimes, rape, that they never committed. Trial by media is the modern equivalent of mob lynching.

It is ironic these scenes should be enacted a year after the USA celebrates half-a-century of a great American novel – To Kill a Mockingbird. A not-so-fictitious case of a black man falsely convicted of rape. What makes Thompson’s performance all the more astonishing is that he is black and a lawyer. He can hardly claim to be ignorant of legal mockingbirds.

The US routinely presents the ‘Perp Walk’, where those charged are publicly marched to court in handcuffs. A scene designed by fiction writers to make the character look guilty. Details of case are discussed in public before a media mob and before the evidence is examined in court or judgement is ruled. The USA now stands accused of breaching the first principle of western justice – the Presumption of Innocence.

Americans themselves are on world-wide TV news admitting the American judicial system is in tatters. Again ironic that such revelations come at the same time when European TV portrays ‘The Kennedys’ and JFK’s that the USA’s primary role was to provide moral leadership of the free world.

Had the US authorities stood by the European practice, the USA would not have egg on its face today but the ramifications of the US trail by media are potentially far worse.

First prosecutors will be less willing to risk reliance on the victim’s word. All victims, not just female rape victims. The case sets back the recognition that powerful people are tempted to abuse their power. The crimes the pwoerful commit, affect far more people than the crimes of the powerless. Look at Enron.

Second, it may make men reluctant to be alone in a room with women, unless a CCTV camera is on. That will enhance the growth of Big Brother and set back personal privacy. This case presents a negative twist to the US romantic comedy ‘Maid in Manhattan, showing on UK TV’s tonight, in which an immigrant hotel maid falls in love with a powerful business man. How many European business and political leaders will now be warned – don’t stay in American hotels? That may damage US economic recovery.

The accused male was leader of a major international financial organisation. Imagine the law suits for defamation of Character. He was an anticipated candidate for the French Presidency and expected to win. Ironically this incident may increase his chances. What then for international, political and financial relationships between the US and France and Europe?  That is no reason for not charging him if an accusation is made, but its good reason to stop the perp walk, media mob and press speculation before the court has ruled.

The worst potential effect is the damage to the authority of the world’s leading country. That is always the most powerful economy in the Western world and as such, that makes the USA the natural leader. The West is about to undergo the greatest change since the US accepted that role from the UK. Hard on the heals of an illegal Iraq war, the collapse of unregulated banking, and the USA’s massive debts, this case damages USA’s legal authority.

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