What’s Law Gotta Do, Gotta Do With It?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

For far too long the re­sponse in some quar­ters to sug­ges­tions that the Honor­able Hardon J. Pharte should not be per­mit­ted near a de­part­ment of govern­ment, let alone to man­age it, has been to take refuge be­hind our crim­i­nal law sys­tem with its “pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence” pro­vi­sion. But what does it mean, pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence? Too many imag­ine it means an in­di­vid­ual did not com­mit the crime of which he is ac­cused. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Af­ter all, a 90-year-old does not need to be told by a judge she was raped or oth­er­wise mal­treated by a suited-up mis­cre­ant. Pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence un­der our le­gal sys­tem sim­ply means an ac­cused per­son is not re­quired to prove his or her in­no­cence in court. It’s up to the prose­cu­tor to es­tab­lish his or her guilt to the sat­is­fac­tion of a jury of their peers.

More­over, the pros­e­cu­tion must prove its case “be­yond a rea­son­able doubt.” To fail to do so is to de­clare the ac­cused free to go. Does that mean, then, the ac­cused did not rape that de­fense­less 90-some­thing fe­male in her own bed? It does—and then again it doesn’t. Court cases are of­ten won and lost only be­cause of dodgy col­lec­tion of ev­i­dence, lousy lawyers, lying wit­nesses, prej­u­diced ju­rors and yes, judges on the take. Then there are the “tech­ni­cal­i­ties,” like fail­ure to in­form an ac­cused of his Mi­randa rights. (As I

write a Nor­we­gian who in 2012 mur­dered 77 peo­ple, mainly chil­dren, and was sen­tenced to 21 years in prison, this week won his suit against the govern­ment for breach­ing his hu­man rights while im­pris­oned.)

The ra­tio­nale for the

pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence is that it’s bet­ter that the guilty go free than the in­no­cent be con­victed. Of course, in some coun­tries, China for one, an in­di­vid­ual is pre­sumed guilty un­til proved in­no­cent. It hardly serves the cause of jus­tice that in Saint Lucia we have no wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­grams. No or­ga­nized le­gal aid—you first have to kill some­one be­fore you are en­ti­tled to a lawyer at state ex­pense. The ma­jor­ity of abused citizens sim­ply can­not af­ford the price of jus­tice. Of­ten the ac­cused well placed is sur­rounded by a bat­tery of high-fly­ing le­gal vul­tures that vol­un­teered their free ser­vices. Mean­while the com­plainant, more of­ten than not, stands alone, fright­ened, un­rep­re­sented, won­der­ing why he or she chose to come to court in the first place. This com­mon­place sit­u­a­tion goes a long way in ex­plain why count­less atroc­i­ties are not re­ported to the po­lice and why vic­tims from time to time re­sort to the so-called law of the jun­gle.

No-ac­count layabouts who were once as dis­trust­ing of our jus­tice sys­tem as the next twice-bit­ten ci­ti­zen take up per­ma­nent res­i­dence in the high court the minute they’re elected to of­fice. It’s cer­tainly no big se­cret that a hand­ful of lawyers have made mil­lions de­fend­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures through­out the re­gion, mostly HOGs with su­per-sen­si­tive skins. They are the po­lit­i­cal equiv­a­lent of the late John­nie Cochran, the ma­jor­ity of whose clients were the crème de la crème of Amer­i­can sports and Hol­ly­wood. Which brings to mind O.J. Simp­son, fa­mously once the face of Hertz, who in 1995 was de­clared “100 per­cent not guilty” of the mur­der of his wife Ni­cole and her friend Ron Gold­man—to the or­gas­mic sat­is­fac­tion of fel­low blacks every­where and more than a few who were not black!

Might Bill Clin­ton have scored po­lit­i­cal points had he turned around the day af­ter that re­sound­ing not-guilty ver­dict and in­stalled Simp­son as U.S. Am­bas­sador, say, at the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Bar­ba­dos? (Let’s pre­tend the Pres­i­dent never stained Mon­ica’s lit­tle blue dress— af­ter all, he was never ac­tu­ally proved guilty save in the court of pub­lic opin­ion, as pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Hil­lary con­tin­ues to dis­cover!)

If only be­cause govern­ment de­part­ments can­not func­tion ef­fec­tively— in­deed nei­ther can pri­vate busi­ness—un­der dark clouds of sus­pi­cion and dis­trust, it is im­per­a­tive that hold­ers of pub­lic of­fice al­ways be seen in the best pos­si­ble light. Court de­ci­sions are quite of­ten not nearly guar­an­tees of good char­ac­ter—for sev­eral rea­sons other than al­ready cited. Th­ese days the In­ter­net can, at the touch of a mouse, tell more about an in­di­vid­ual, his suit­abil­ity for pub­lic of­fice or pri­vate po­si­tion, than can be gleaned from a dozen in­ter­views. It is with good rea­son that in rel­a­tively re­cent times re­cruiters for the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force have taken to pub­lish­ing the names of short­listed job ap­pli­cants per­chance some­one might know some­thing about them that rig­or­ous back­ground checks did not un­cover. Think Lam­birds. What works for the po­lice cer­tainly should be put to work for the rest of the pub­lic ser­vice—our high­est of­fices in par­tic­u­lar.

The prime min­is­ter re­cently re­vealed to the na­tion—to the world via the In­ter­net—strong sug­ges­tions that the IMPACS re­port fingers lead­ing govern­ment of­fi­cials, politi­cians, po­lice of­fi­cers and busi­ness­men. Con­ceiv­ably, some of them might be

can­di­dates in the up­com­ing elec­tions. And while both sides of the House of­ten at­tack one an­other’s rep­u­ta­tions in the worst way, still the prime min­is­ter owes we the peo­ple his per­sonal guar­an­tee that come Polling Day we will not in­ad­ver­tently elect ac­tual killers and other crim­i­nals to Saint Lucia’s most im­por­tant of­fices. It will say much about the prime min­is­ter him­self should he con­tinue to de­lay pros­e­cu­tion of the IMPACS re­port. It is not nearly enough sim­ply to trum­pet from a noisy po­lit­i­cal plat­form—as re­cently he did in Gros Islet—“I have no blood on my hands!”

The prime min­is­ter may not be nearly as pro­fi­cient a ca­daver ca­nine as he seems to imag­ine him­self. Be­sides, he was never elected judge, jury and foren­sic ex­pert. Bet­ter to leave it to our autho­rized snif­fers to de­ter­mine what in­deed are gouts of blood, fa­tal vi­sions, and dis­tract­ing red her­rings!

Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony: How much power can one man han­dle be­fore he turns on the very peo­ple who em­pow­ered him? When will the SLP leader and PM clear the clouds of sus­pi­cion swirling around his head and those of can­di­dates wait­ing for their turn at levers of power?

For­mer sports and Hol­ly­wood su­per­star O.J. Simp­son: His pic­ture in the Amer­i­can Her­itage Dic­tionary (third edi­tion) iden­ti­fies him as “the first pro­fes­sional foot­ball player to rush more than 2,000 yards in a sea­son.” There is no ref­er­ence to the killer of his wife Ni­cole and her friend Ron Gold­man!

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