Opinion

OPINION: DUE PROCESS GOES BOTH WAYS

r-7.jpegJudge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judicial Committee. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters

I have the utmost and most sincere respect and empathy for any woman who comes forward with allegations of sexual assault. They deserve to have their claims heard and investigated like those alleging any other form of criminal wrongdoing. Indeed, our country needs to become much better at making law enforcement agencies better and more secure places for these allegations to be investigated. Furthermore, processes need to be greatly simplified to make women more comfortable with coming forward soon after the violence took place, particular with men who are in positions of power. However, we can not let this empathy and search for truth do away with the basic founding principles of our republic. Principles such as presumption of innocence (a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt), and due process (all criminal defendants are entitled to the same due process of law) are basic principles of our justice system. I am afraid that in our search for better recognition and understanding of abused women, we have lost sight of these principles. However, we must acknowledge the two are not mutually exclusive ideals. The moment that public accusations become assertions of fact, whether in the eye of the public or in a court of law, is the day that our country has lost sight of who we are and what we believe in. Beliefs like this unnecessarily and irreparably ruin the lives and reputations of good men and women and tear apart families.

With regard to the current investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I believe too many have allowed themselves to become consumed by this presumption of guilt. Let me be clear, Dr. Ford has an absolute right to have her claims heard and investigated. In this instance, though a criminal investigation of this kind would normally be completed by local law enforcement within the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed, I believe re-opening the FBI investigation is appropriate. However, I re-emphasize the fact that the purpose of the FBI inquiry in this process is little more than evidence gathering and reporting. No conclusions are reached. However, some valuable testimony may be able to be obtained and reported which may certainly be worth a small delay in this process. I agree in regard to the fact that this appointment is a lifetime one, there is no going back, and the Senate should be as certain as possible of Judge Kavanaugh before making their decision.

r-8.jpegChristine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser, takes the stand on Capitol Hill. Photo: Michael Reynolds/Reuters

However, this entire process should have been done with the privacy of the families of both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh in mind. Parading this information around in the public eye while one Senate office had it in their possession for several weeks before hearings began is disgraceful and unbecoming of this formal advice and consent process. We have allowed this process to become incredibly partisan and we must be careful with just how far we allow ourselves to stray. This entire investigation could have been done through the FBI and handled in close door sessions and released only with majority consent of the Judiciary committee. By not doing so, Dr. Ford has been harassed and been surrounded by an unending media circus inquiring into her personal life and Judge Kavanaugh’s family has been threatened and harassed and his reputation irreparably tarnished. The Senate must be better than this, we as a country must be better than this.

I have the utmost respect for Dr. Ford for having the courage to come forward to share her story with a sense toward civic duty. The Senate should have all possible information before them when making this lifelong appointment decision. However, I also hold the highest regard for Judge Kavanaugh who has dedicated much of his life to public service and for his family who support him unyieldingly throughout this arduous process. I maintain my presumption of innocence for Judge Kavanaugh while still acknowledging, listening to, and calling for further investigation into the claims of Dr. Ford. We should all do the same and I’m absolutely sure we would all like the same presumption to be given to us if we or one our family members were put in their positions. The right to due process and presumption of innocence are not values that should start or end at the entrance to a court house, these are values that should be a guiding force throughout our society.

Regardless of whether any new revelations are uncovered by the re-opened FBI investigation, we as a country and certainly the entire Senate must take a very careful look at what kind of horrible process we have allowed advice and consent to become. John McCain’s speech on the Senate floor demanding a return to regular order cannot be soon forgotten, we must remember those words and his bipartisan actions. If we are to make any progress as a country, bipartisanship must be embraced again. Both major parties are at tremendous fault for allowing the Congressional environment to become what it has. I hope that one day we can find and elect representatives who are interested in working together to find solutions than in pointing fingers. We have an amazing opportunity as citizens of this great country to do just that come November.

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