Thursday 24 March 2016

Not guilty, and other thoughts...

So today, Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty by a judge in an Ontario court on several counts of sexual assault and one count of choking.

The charges stemmed from three complainants who claim he slapped, punched and/or choked them during sexual encounters going back more than 10 years.

I'm not going to rehash all the nitty gritty details of the case here. For that, I will recommend watching Diana Davison's videos on the Ghomeshi trial, where she lays it all out for everyone to see. The problems with the case, the problems with the complainants, the problems with media coverage, the problems with the Crown's apparent new policy to #ListenandBelieve rather than thoroughly vet complaints of sexual assault.

I was watching live coverage by Global News Toronto this morning of the verdict, where they had a legal expert discussing the case and the live tweets emerging from the courtroom as the judge read his decision. Unlike in the Gregory Alan Elliott case, the judge in this case made everyone wait until his entire decision was read before declaring his verdict of not guilty on all counts. Because of this, there was plenty of ACTUAL discussion of the legal issues at hand, rather than bloviating on how the verdict might impact survivors of sexual assault.

The crux of the matter before the judge, in the absence of Ghomeshi presenting any affirmative defence (that is, Ghomeshi's counsel at no point said, "here's what REALLY happened", or even "here's what MIGHT have really happened") was the credibility of the complainants. This was not a prosecution based on "he said she said". He, being Ghomeshi, and his counsel, said nothing at all about what happened. It was constructed entirely on the basis of "she said"...

And what "she said" on the stand and to police and the Crown involved a lot of lying under oath. Like, a LOT of lying under oath.

The complainants were exposed as perjurers by defence counsel, and it was demonstrated that two of them were involved in months of collusion before and after their complaints to police were filed.

In a case where he offered no defence of himself, these complainants still managed to sabotage their own cases through their repeated and extensive lying outright, lying by omission and improper collusion with each other.

These women were hoist with their own petards. He offered no affirmative defence, no alternate account of events that conflicted with theirs, no evidence in his defence. All he had to do was let them destroy their own credibility as witnesses. And they could not have done a better job if they'd tried.

I have no idea whether Ghomeshi is actually guilty of what they claim he did. I DO know that the verdict was entirely proper. Any other verdict in light of the evidence would be a miscarriage of justice. As the judge said in his decision, every criminal case MUST begin with the presumption of innocence, and it must end with either certainty of what is true and what is not beyond a reasonable doubt, or a not guilty verdict. How can a judge decide that any witness is telling the truth about anything when they are shown to have repeatedly lied under oath? About relevant details?

The appropriate feminist hashtag for this trial should not be #IBelieveSurvivors, but #IBelieveLiars.

One thing the legal expert for Global News Toronto said on their livestream of the verdict was that victim advocates, while they will undoubtedly be upset about this verdict, should learn a lesson from this. They need to learn what actually goes on in a courtroom, and how the criminal law actually works. And they absolutely do need to do that.

If they spent more time figuring out how the law works and why it works the way it does, and less time bitching about how difficult that makes things for victims, maybe more victims would win their cases.

If the three complainants in this case had disclosed their interactions with Ghomeshi after the assaults, rather than lying about them, their credibility--what the entire case hinged on, in the opinion of the judge--might not have been demolished so exquisitely and systematically on the stand.

As I tweeted earlier today, something I rarely do: I don't know if Ghomeshi is guilty or not. I DO know that the complainants were all perjurers.

I am not willing to send someone to prison on the basis of the testimony of three individuals who are willing to repeatedly and persistently lie under oath. I'm sorry, but I'm just not.

So if there's one lesson a victim advocate could learn from this case, it's probably this: tell your victim that lying to police, prosecutors and the court about details relevant to her case is the most dumbfuck and counterproductive thing she could possibly do.

It is not the job of the court to decide what might have happened, or even what probably happened. It is the job of the court, based on values expressed in the Magna Carta that exist to curtail the ability of the state to become an agent of oppression, to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime.

Stop telling victims that they should not be expected to prove their cases. Stop bitching that the rules, which have already been reformed beyond recognition, are still unfair and should be changed even more. Just learn what they are, and learn to live with them. Give victims sound legal advice, rather than a feminism-inspired pity party.

I will repeat. The presumption of innocence and due process of law exist not to allow rapists to get away with it. They don't even exist to keep any given innocent person out of prison. They exist primarily to prevent the state from becoming an agent of oppression. They exist to curtail the power of governments to persecute their citizens--all their citizens.

This necessarily means that some rapists will get away with it, just like some car thieves will, and some murderers will, and some child abusers will. But it also means that we are smart enough to hold our governments to a higher standard of fairness and justice than we do our rapists, car thieves, murderers and child abusers, because our governments have greater power and wherewithal to do harm to us than any one criminal does.

Stop fucking bitching and just do your jobs. Stop "reforming the system" and reform instead how you do your jobs. You'd probably find you win more cases.