Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty …

On January 29th, I wrote a piece titled An Almost Lynching about the hate crime that had been perpetrated upon a black, gay actor named Jussie Smollett.  I was appalled that he had been beaten, had racial and homophobic epithets thrown at him, and a rope had been placed around his neck in what appeared to be a threat of lynching.

Since then, there is considerable doubt surrounding Mr. Smollett’s version of the events and a possibility that he himself staged the event.  The jury is still out, and while Mr. Smollett has been charged by Chicago police, he has not been tried and convicted.  In this country, at least last I knew, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and Jussie Smollett has not been proven guilty.  His legal team released a statement saying …

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

The Chicago police claim to have evidence, Mr. Smollett denies it.  I make no judgment at this point, but I will say that if it turns out this ‘crime’ was in fact a hoax in order to increase Mr. Smollett’s star power, as his accusers claim, then I, along with the mainstream media, jumped the gun.  For now, however, I have a more important point to make.

Whether Mr. Smollett is innocent, or guilty as charged, this incident has done significant damage to both blacks and the LGBT community.  If it turns out that Smollett did, in fact, stage the attack, that it was naught more than a publicity stunt to focus attention on him, to give him a career boost as the Chicago police claim, then the next black person … and the next and the next and the next … will be doubted, rather than taken at their word.  Remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf?  Well, this is the same, and not only will Smollett be called a liar, but so will those who come after him.

Take it a step further … as blacks and gays who are truly attacked are taken less seriously, their credibility challenged, those haters will feel more emboldened, freer to perpetuate hate crimes, knowing that the burden of proof will fall on the victim.  And thus, the train will pick up speed as it goes downhill and soon, a crime against a black or gay person will be like sexual assaults against women where the victim most often remains silent, knowing what will happen if she comes forward.  In 2017, hate crimes in the U.S. increased by 17%.  The numbers are not out yet for 2018, but I would bet it was even higher than 17%.  WHY????????  In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracked 1,020 hate groups in the U.S. – white supremacists, neo-Nazis and others – compared to under 500 in 1999.

Conversely, if the Chicago police are mis-reading the evidence and not doing their due diligence to uncover all the facts of the matter, if they are willing to blame Mr. Smollett and make the evidence fit their preconceived notion, then this sets a dangerous precedent.  We already have police departments across the nation whose members often display a racist animosity toward blacks.  I lost count a few years ago of how many unarmed black men had been killed by police.  And I have friends who have personally experienced police harassment that no white man would be exposed to.

Our society has, over the past few years, become more bigoted, more racist, and more violent.  As I’ve read news story after news story, blogs, comments and social media posts in the past few days, the thing I’ve noticed is that most seem ready, even eager, to assume that Mr. Smollett is guilty of perpetuating a hoax for personal gain.  No benefit of the doubt.  No ‘wait and see’.  He is black and he is gay, so … he must be guilty, right?  What if it had happened to … Justin Bieber?

I cannot possibly address all the issues in a single post, but if I have a point (sometimes I wonder) it is that we must not rush to judgment.  Jussie Smollett is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The presumption of guilt goes against the Constitution and it goes against being a humanitarian.  If Mr. Smollett is proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt in a court of law, then so be it, but until that time, let us not rush to judgment.  There is enough widespread bigotry in this country … let us not add to it.

20 thoughts on “Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty …

  1. With everything that has happened, I worry about the person named Jussie. If he orchestrated this, I think of what how his thoughts must be twisted for him to be driven to do this, and feel for him. If it was done to him, then we’re back at the horror of square one. Hell, anyway it’s viewed, it’s a horror, but if he did this, it’s a cry for help, as well.

    I wonder how many cries we’re not hearing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an excellent and compassionate point you make, Michael! A cry for help. I had not thought of it in that way, but you are very right. And to the broader point … how many cries are going unnoticed? Many, I suspect. Thanks for your insight … you have made me stop and think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Jill. You make great points as always. There are people who still try to minimize what happened to Mathew Shepard and try to change the story to make it seem like there was no hate or bigotry involved. There is an interesting twist I read this morning on the Smollett case. The Chicago police Chief had said that Smollett had made the threatening letter himself. The FBI says that is not their determination yet, the statement they released seemed to imply they felt that was not correct and that Smollett did not create it. I think there is more to this story than we know right now. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • Still??? After more than 20 years??? Sigh. I remember that case well … tragic, and it showed the bigotry of some in this nation. It was the first time, I think, that I ever heard of Westboro Baptist Church, the most hateful organization in the name of religion! And now, no matter what direction the Smollett case takes, damage has already been done. I trust the FBI far more than I trust the Chicago PD, and at this point, I’m not sure how far I will be trusting the judicial system. But to convict him without evidence on social media is just WRONG! Yes, I’m betting there is far moire to it that we know yet. ‘Scuse me … I must go find my jumbo bottle of ibuprofen! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    • As is everyone, but you and I stop, analyze, think and decide to wait and see. Others, less educated, more bigoted, jump on the bandwagon and convict him on Facebook and Twitter. Ugly world some days.

      Like

  3. Mr Smollett will no doubt have the benefit of a top legal team who will fight their case vigorously. It doesn’t happen that way often. I doubt the police will just be able to suggest he is guilty of staging the crime, they will be expected to prosecute the case properly with witnesses and proof, hearsay isn’t likely to be admitted. We should get an honest verdict.
    The only little niggle I had so far is that he claims he was beaten by white men and yet I understand the police have two men who admitted being paid to do this but they are black. If the police were really intending to create a case against him, surely they would have found two white men to say they’d done it.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • ‘Tis true that he has good lawyers. However, you have, I think, more faith in the judicial system when it comes to blacks in this country. Typically, even with the best of lawyers, they don’t always get a fair shake. Your niggle is indeed one of the odd things. He admits to paying the two black men the police arrested $3,500, but for other purposes … something to do with a video he will be doing soon and some physical training he was asking of them. What’s true? I have no idea, but … if he’s guilty of doing this as a publicity stunt, he should be punished lest others decide to try the same. But I haven’t seen any convincing evidence of that yet. Guilty or not, this has set wheels in motion that will have consequences for blacks and gays in the years to come, and that is the worst of it all. Sigh.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My sentiments, exactly, Jill. It is easier to manufacture evidence than to search it out. It is easier for Trump’s pets to believe the police than the possible victim. And it certainly sets a very bad precedent for the next victim of a real hate crime.
    Like you, I do not no who to believe, I am even more distanced from this situation than you are. But when all it takes is the suggestion that this crime might be self-inflicted to make people instantly accept it as truth, the tide is turning in the wrong direction.
    Your advice to wait and see is wise, but however this turns out its effect can almost be said to be predetermined. Racists all over will be crying the dead man of colour shot himself with the policeman’s gun. And who will be there to say different?

    Liked by 3 people

    • And that is the worst of it, whichever way it turns out. People were so all-fired ready to jump on the bandwagon and believe the worst of the gay black dude, and it will have set a precedent, even if he is cleared of all charges. There are some odd things about this entire situation, and I don’t think it’s up to social media to judge one way or another. Then again, I don’t necessarily trust the judicial system in this case either. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is not going to end good for anyone, as long as el dumpo is in charge. I have no idea if Chicago is repub or dem, but there is still a blue wall there, I am sure (as in police blue). What the hell is wrong with people? Can they find nothing better to do with their time…

        Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t know for sure, as I haven’t been in Chicago since I was a child when my grandmother lived there, but my understanding is that it is largely democrat, which would make sense. Don Trump Jr. said the other day that anyone daring to wear a maga hat in Chicago would likely be shot on sight. But yeah, there is still that ‘blue wall of silence’. Nope, people seem to be bored with their lives and take their pleasure from opining on social media, stirring up trouble if they can’t find some already brewing.

          Liked by 1 person

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