Updated: Jul 2, 2019
"If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was a line famously uttered by Johnny Cochran which led to O J Simpson’s acquittal on murder charges. The public erroneously believed this meant he was not guilty. Instead, it simply meant that the jury was unable to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Like many of us, I assumed the system of justice was meant to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Nothing could be further from the truth. In seeking to distance itself from English law, the Founding Fathers adopted the principle of presumption of innocence. This meant that the burden of proof was on the prosecution to prove the accused guilty.
Many other countries have the exact opposite of this. England and other countries place the burden of proof on the defense, meaning the accused must provide evidence that they are not guilty in order to win vindication. Sadly, many countries distorted this view to unjustly punish political rivals, leading to the Founding Fathers' adoption of the opposing position.
The assumption of innocence is not without its flaws. Like in the infamous OJ case, many have used the “not guilty” verdict as proof of exoneration. You may be surprised to learn that Lizzy Borden, who was famously tried for murdering her parents, was found “not guilty”, yet has been convicted in the court of public opinion.
Remember this little ditty?
Lizzie Borden took an axe, And gave her mother forty whacks, When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.
In our present context, we have the Mueller Investigation. Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller refused to pursue charges, citing Department of Justice policy that he couldl not indict a sitting president. Once again, Trump took to Twitter, and in a rambling White House lawn interview, falsely claimed “Total exoneration”. Like the OJ verdict, nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite being new to the process, Attorney General William Barr sought to invalidate the Mueller Investigation, first by releasing a four-page synopsis that supported this claim, and then taking to the airwaves to admit he had interpreted the results entirely differently from Mueller.
So, what does this say about our legal system, when a single person can overturn years of investigation?
It says our legal system is broken. When the goal of the legal system is not about guilt or innocence, it’s time to re-examine our legal process. Lawyers are more intent on creating confusion than admitting the guilt of their client. This is a process known as obfuscation.
Under the current administration, they are using this trick to prevent investigations and, more recently, investigating the investigation to sow doubt in the findings of the Mueller Investigation.
It’s time to put a halt to this legal chicanery, and to prevent the guilty from escaping justice. We need to start a movement that will return to the true intent of the Founding Fathers where the guilty are held accountable for their crimes and not allowed to hide behind legal loopholes that only the wealthy can use.
CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.