Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You Have The Right to Remain Guilty Until Proven Innocent

So yesterday I participated in a discussion on FB regarding the news story of the French authorities collecting DNA samples of 527 male students and staff (with the threat of taking them into custody for further questioning and considering them a suspect, if they refused to willing give DNA) at a school where a girl was raped.

The discussion started off this way:

"Do you think this is an acceptable method to solve a crime?"

My answer:

"Acceptable? No, not at all. The very idea that all males in that school are potential suspects due to the fact that they ARE male, is just outrageous. The idea that they'd be remanded to custody for refusing to give up their DNA is purely insane. Thank God this isn't France. Clearly they've lost their minds."

100+ comments and statements later, I can honestly say I was floored by how many people (at least the ones commenting there, and apparently a bunch of them in France) are so ready and willing to quite eagerly sacrifice the rights of others (and by doing so, their own, even though they don't realize it yet).

I had no intention of revisiting this topic today but of course there were more comments and FB notifications and all that when I logged on today.  I won't re-hash the entire conversation but I do want to point out some things that really stood out to me about this topic.

"If you're innocent you'd have no reason not to give DNA to prove it"

That comment came up a lot and I'm honestly not sure if anyone saying it realizes what they actually said. Perhaps it's because I grew up in a culture where it's commonly believed (or it used to be anyway) that in a criminal investigation a person is considered innocent until proven guilty, but each time I read that statement it struck me how quickly people are willing to assume guilt of others, and essentially form a lynch-mob mentality. To me this is like saying, "if you're not engaging in criminal correspondence, you'd have no reason to not let the police read all your emails" or, "if you don't have any stolen (or illegal) property in your home, you'd have no reason to not allow police to enter and search every square inch" or "if you're not laundering money, you have no reason not to allow police to comb through every single financial transaction you've made in the last year"

Now, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the internet but from where I sit, these things are private and as law abiding citizens not under arrest, we should have the right to keep them private, should we not?  The implication that statement above makes is, only the guilty or only those with something to hide, would refuse to submit their DNA for elimination.  The same implication would have to be said about any random person who didn't let the police read all their private emails, search their homes or pull their financial records. It's truly an absurd idea that only the guilty desire to protect their privacy.

"Who cares about their right to privacy? A girl has been raped, what about her rights and justice for her?"

Another sentiment that came up many times.  Can you imagine if law enforcement carried out every investigation this way?  Let's say for example a blonde woman was seen committing a crime, and then got away before police arrived.  The only information they had to go on was that she is a.) female, b.) blonde and c.) there were eyewitnesses to her crime.  So then, every blonde female in a 20, 50 or 100 mile radius is now considered a possible suspect and for that reason, law enforcement is able to detain, search, enter their homes (without a search warrant), confiscate their property, etc. Even if she can prove she was no where near the crime scene.  Simply because she's female and blonde she is considered a possible suspect without any other evidence whatsoever.  Essentially, the police can do whatever they deem necessary because... who cares about their right to privacy? A crime has been committed. What about the victim's rights and justice for the victim?

Imagine the precedent such a thought process would set if this were to become common practice. At which point, no one, at any time, any place would ever again have any right to privacy.  It would be completely stripped away from every single citizen because... that's what they wanted. Of course they only wanted it in this case, but possibly the next one, and the one down the road, and then that other one and then one day, they themselves would be the one presumed guilty before proof of innocence and they would have no rights, and no defense and no protection under the law.  None.  

Of course this sounds ridiculous and outrageous and (hopefully) will never be a reality but the fact is, stepping on the rights of innocent people to catch a criminal who assaulted someone is unthinkable, unethical, and irresponsible.

Honestly, I hope they catch the monster who raped the girl.  As well, if they had asked the males associated with that school to willingly submit DNA without any threat of detaining/questioning/presuming guilt and they willingly volunteered, that would be just fine by me and there wouldn't even have been a story. I also hope when they do catch him, it will turn out that he isn't a match to any of the 527 they forced to be tested.  Because if he is, that seals it in the minds of those who were for this, to announce to the world that regardless of your or my personal right to privacy, the ends justify the means.  And that's a major slippery slope I honestly don't think any decent, private citizen wants to see coming to their community.

Because if it does, eventually it's going to be you, who has the right to remain guilty until you can prove you're innocent.  Or your husband, or daughter, or mother, or me, or someone else you care about.