Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: There ought to be a law to punish false accusers and corrupt prosecutors

The State Attorney of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, after reviewing the evidence of the Duke Lacross case has stated that the players on the team are innocent of all charges brought by the State Prosecutor, Mike Nyfong. This phase of the proceedings took more than a year. The legal system has yet to determine whether the dishonest prosecutor and the accuser should be criminally responsible for their actions.

The integrity of our legal system demands government officials who withhold or falsify information and citizens who bring false charges must receive severe punishment. The lack of consequences for these behaviors will only lead to a continuing decline of respect for our judicial system.

This Duke case is only “the tip of the iceberg” of citizens being guilty until proven innocent. The perversion of a main underpinning of our legal system: that a person is innocent until proven guilty, is becoming frighteningly commonplace in our nation.

Custody cases, sexual harassment and abuse, hate crimes and domestic violence force the accused to prove their own innocence. They are investigated often in long, drawn out procedures without having specific knowledge of when or where the incident was supposed to have occurred. The government bureaucrat has the power to investigate and determine the possible validity of the charges with little accountability. The investigators are often understaffed and poorly trained to make a just and rapid determination. In the meantime the innocent person accused suffers from not knowing if or when the ordeal will end.

Eventually, when the usual “not founded” conclusion is reached, the false accuser or the self-serving bureaucrat more often than not is immune from consequences for his actions.

Presently it appears there is no consideration of the character of the person making the allegation. Everyone is treated as if he is equally honorable no matter how sordid the past. Even when a person is shown to be a pathological liar his testimony is given equal credence to an individual who has lived an exemplary life. This is absurd. Reputation has and still should matter in arriving at the plausibility of an accuser’s allegation.

This system must be revamped to protect the rights of the innocent. The following recommendations will bring into balance rights of the accuser and the accused. This will bring us back to the original intent of the law: to be innocent until proven guilty.

    • A law needs to be passed to make it a crime for a false accuser or corrupt bureaucrat who has blatantly lied to be prosecuted.
    • There should be a time limit of 2-4 weeks to determine the plausibility of the charge.
    • Should the accuser is found to be lying to the investigators the state should be required to prosecute for perjury.
    • Any investigator or prosecuting attorney who is found to withhold or falsify information should be charged with a crime.

These recommendations will introduce a level of accountability to the process.

The Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to a speedy trial. The person falsely accused of abuse deserves the same protection of a thorough but quick process. Instead of a nebulous “unfounded” statement they should be declared “innocent of all charges.” North Carolina State Attorney, Ron Cooper, publicly declared the Duke defendants innocent to help them regain their good reputations.

Our system of justice cannot give an individual falsely claiming to be violated or a corrupt government official impunity from prosecution after they trample on the lives of others. It may be necessary in our Politically Correct climate to give the benefit of a doubt to a person claiming to be victimized by another.

However, if the self-proclaimed “victim” is blatantly lying, or the government bureaucrat is falsifying information to win the case, they must be punished. A strong consequence will act as a deterrent minimizing the number of cases where a person is guilty until proven innocent.



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