Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Difference From Wrongfully Convicted And Proven Innocent

In this Newsday article critical information is only presented at the end of an article about a man who claims to have been the victim of a fraudulent rape report and who claims that a judge's ruling proved his claim.

The Second Department of the Appellate Division in Brooklyn threw out Bennett's conviction Dec. 9 because it said the girl could not recall specifically when she said she was attacked. Without a specific time period, the court ruled, "it is virtually impossible" for Bennett to mount a defense against the allegations.

This ruling in no way proves that Clay Bennett is innocent as he claims.

Yet I'm sure some people have already jumped to the conclusion that this is exactly what it does. They are likely to demand that the mother of the alleged rape victim should be charged with a crime and they are likely to talk as if that woman and her daughter have been proven guilty through this ruling, but their call to action would be based on a false premise.

The article begins by presenting Bennett's claim of being framed as if it were proven when it was not. By the article's title of Wrongful convict freed in rape case is 'bitter' and by leaving the details of the court ruling until last, readers are mislead about the actual meaning of wrongfully convicted.

A person can be both materially guilty and wrongfully convicted because the first has to do with what actually happened and the second has to do with the criminal justice process of providing evidence of guilt and innocence and proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with the burden of proof on the prosecution.

An example of this difference is when incriminating DNA evidence in a murder case is obtained illegally and is admitted to trial in error. If the DNA evidence is thrown out in the case's appeal where there were no eye-witnesses the real murderer could be released because it is decided that there was a wrongful conviction.

People get this distinction much easier in murder cases because they understand that the appeals court ruling doesn't magically undo a murder. But because many of the same people are quick to believe that a rape report was fraudulent, their logical reasoning skills often vanish.

Bennett's defense attorney, John Ray, makes claims which he presents as proven facts when he knows there is a legal difference. Obviously, this conflating of an overturned conviction with proven innocence benefits his client so he has no motivation to be accurate about this appeals court ruling.

The alleged victim in this case maintains that the original allegations are true. It would be an injustice for the appeals court ruling to cause this girl (now a woman) to be wrongfully accused or wrongfully charged with a crime she didn't commit.

I'm always amazed when those who focus on fighting false accusations have no difficulty issuing their own false or unfounded accusations. What they claim is evil when done to alleged rapists becomes good when done to alleged rape victims.

It's fine for observers to believe that this man is innocent but it not fine for them to claim that their belief is based on proven fact.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:19 AM   1 comments links to this post


At March 10, 2009 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the mother of the girl who was Mr. Bennett's victim...I want to say thank you!


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