The American left accelerated its attack on every precept of civil society this month by arguing that the presumption of innocence, as the leftists would say, “isn’t really a thing.”
The context for this latest assault is that, in its unquenchable zeal for power, the left is willing to dismiss principles that have guided human interaction for centuries just so they may have a chance at preserving a more liberal court. Specifically, their latest claim is that Judge Brett Kavanaugh need not be presumed innocent until proven guilty during his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee because those hearings are not a trial. In point of fact, the left’s contention, once again, is patently false.
The fact is that in every facet of human interaction an individual is presumed to be innocent. Consider what would happen if this were not the case. Under such circumstances it would be totally appropriate for one to randomly beat up any person with whom he or she comes into contact because the recipient of the punishment is presumed to be guilty of whatever it is that he is suspected of doing.
For example, if the left’s contention that presumed innocence is only true in trials then it would be perfectly appropriate for me to walk up to a man that I presumed to be guilty of sleeping with my wife and beat him up. Or if you want to be more formal about it, it would be perfectly appropriate for me to call the police, merely tell them that the accused had slept with my wife and have the police apply the appropriate statutorily prescribed punishment upon my wife and him for adultery.
Indeed, if it were not for everyone’s presumption of innocence in every facet of life, then there would be no room for formal society since we would all be involved in an endless and random maze of revenges and counter-revenges against each other because everyone around us would be presumed guilty of whatever we want; a hopeless and absurd situation indeed.
But such is the world of the left.
The fact is, and what the left is trying to make us forget, is that everyone around us starts with a presumption of innocence. If you call your plumber to work on your home, you do not interact with him under the presumption of shoddy workmanship. You believe he or she will do a good job, or at least is capable of it. If you go to the drugstore, you presume that the pharmacist is going to give you the correct tablets and that the pharmaceutical company placed the correct chemicals in the tablets. We do this because of the presumption of innocence under which everyone is held consciously, or subconsciously.
To be sure, trial proceedings are much more formal affairs and much different than what takes place in extra-judicial human interactions, but the differences lie not in the presumption of innocence. The differences lie in how we prove guilt and the safeguards with which to prove it. In short, there are only two things that vary between the ruminations of a court and public interactions: 1) the evidence we are allowed to consider; and 2) the amount of evidence required in order to arrive at the conclusion.
Let us first consider the evidence we are allowed to consider. In court, particularly in criminal courts, there are a myriad of rules that determine what evidence may be used against the defendant. The reason for this is that the courts want to only allow the most reliable pieces of evidence into the fray because the consequence of making a wrong decision can potentially be that an innocent woman gets sent to jail.
In the arena of human interaction, anything the individual wishes to consider may be taken into account. For example, if John’s mother tells John that Steve said that his wife, Mary, had been sleeping with Charles, John is free to consider that piece of evidence in passing judgment upon Mary’s and Charles’s conducts. But you will never be able to introduce that hearsay comment into a court of law to establish the fact that Mary is sleeping with Charles.
Why the difference? Well because the consequence of the information laid upon John is potentially to upset him and cause him to act on that information. The same information given to a court can have much broader implications as the court carries with it the power of the state in enacting penalties.
Then we consider the amount of evidence required to make the point. Again, in the forum of personal interactions, the standard is whatever the recipient wants it to be…in other words; anything goes. In our example, John is free to personally act against his wife based only on the information his mother gave him. However, if John does that sufficiently frequently, then he will quickly learn the consequences of making false accusations and of running on unsubstantiated or uncorroborated evidence because, sooner rather than later, his information is going to lead him to the wrong conclusions and his life will be thrown into chaos.
In legal proceedings, the amount of evidence required varies. For example, to begin many proceedings all that may be needed is a scintilla of evidence, or “just the smell of evidence.” So, a person appearing before a committee to say that someone raped someone 35 years prior absent any other evidence may be enough for that committee to look into it, but it is certainly insufficient for the committee to reach any conclusion against the nominee, or take any action against him or her.
Usually, the lowest burden of proof with which to take actions is the more likely than not standard. Here, the amount of evidence presented would be so strong so as to make an impartial mind conclude that it was more likely than not that the accusation is true, or that the event took place. I can tell you that absent any other corroborating evidence there is no situation where the mere accusation by one person of an event that took place 35 years earlier would ever reach the more likely than not standard. Doing so would be equivalent to adopting the presumption of guilt standard, which I laid out at the opening of this article and society could not have ever developed.
For a criminal trial, the level of proof would be beyond reasonable doubt, or as legal scholars describe it, at least 95% sure. This is the highest level of proof employed and a burden that is admittedly too strict for either the court of public opinion or a hearing.
For a hearing, the more appropriate level is either more likely than not, or a preponderance of the evidence (at least 80% sure). Either way, the burden of proof is much higher than that required to merely consider an allegation.
It is clear that the stakes in the fight against leftist policies have now increased from the regression to socialism or the intrusion of government onto our civil liberties to a defense of the very foundational steeples of our society.
According to the left, it is now okay for women to divorce their husbands merely because the husbands are Republicans. It is okay to harass a President merely because he won. It is okay to call someone guilty and permanently ruin him or her. And it is okay to equate a vote based on a certain set of facts with a globally broad statement applicable to a whole class of people who have no knowledge or personal association with the established facts upon which the vote is made.
This is the world according to the left. It is a world permissive of totalitarian dictatorships, a world that allows blacks to be enslaved or mercilessly discriminated against, and a world where justice does not exist except for those who are part of the ruling class.
If this is sounding very close to the realities that existed in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, and Mao’s China — and those called for in Antifa’s, MeToo’s, and Black Lives Matters’ America — that’s because it is. Each of those systems is all too willing to cast away presumptions of innocence, burdens of proof, and evidentiary requirements before imparting upon an individual the full wrath of government.
Let’s hope that in today’s America, there are still enough of us who are willing to stand up for our civil liberties and for the absolute right to be presumed innocent until and unless we are proven guilty. Ordered society depends on it.