Thursday, April 29, 2010

Perception of Guilt: Was I Unclear?

The anonymous writer of a comment attached to yesterday’s post missed my point completely, or maybe I wasn’t clear. It was in reference to the perception of wrong-doing before a verdict is rendered. Here’s the comment as written and posted:

You must be kidding. Charges must be brought because the perception of wrong-doing would have remained. Then Mike Easley must be charged no matter if there is evidence or not because the perception of wrong-doing is going to remain. Bascially what you are saying is that everyone should be charged no matter what the evidence is so they can prove their innocence otherwise the N&O is going to write about you. What a warped sense of judgement you have. Please decline to be on any grand jury because you will always vote to charge no matter what is presented as evidence because the perception of wrong-doing has to be removed. How about the DA just saying there is no evidence and dropping the charges. No cannot do that because someone said you are guilty of something so you have to prove your innocence in a court of law. And you must clear that bad perception.

The writer missed my point. Charges do not have to be brought because of perception of wrong-doing, only if there is evidence to bring charges. But, the perception will remain in some cases no matter the verdict. With the four football players, they have been charged. So, the perception of wrong-doing is there, no matter what happens in court. And, no matter a court verdict, or even if the charges are dropped, strong, immediate action by Tom O'Brien will offer a perception that he will not allow his players, no matter the level of ability, to find themselves in situations that bring bad publicity to a good program, guilty or not. In that regard, here's an interesting comment posted by another anonymous reader after the initial column on the four football players:

So what will be of great interest to me will be to see how TOB will penalize these "high profile" players. Having been a part of the football program in the recent past, he has cast off walk ons and players of lesser talent/value for far less infractions. I am very curious to see how he handles this situation - it will be very telling of his true values and nature.

Unfortunately. In the case of the Duke lacrosse team, charges could have never been brought, but certain members of the media, and I named one yesterday, would have continued to assault those young men through their writings. The perception as well as the accusations would have continued. The perception around that case remains and will for a long time. Around the country, when Duke athletics is discussed, the content is usually Duke basketball and how great that program is, and Duke lacrosse and the perception of wrong-doing.

As far as former Governor Mike Easley, no matter what happens, there will always be a perception by many that he is guilty of something, that he had a hand in underhanded dealings. He will not be completely absolved with the perception of wrong-doing, though he may never be found guilty, or just charged, of any wrong-doing or crime. Perception will remain, even if he is charged with something, goes to trial and is found not guilty. That’s the nature of politics and political figures. Not from everyone, but from many. Perception of guilt or wrong-doing will harm a reputation quickly and without regard to a court verdict.

No doubt, NC State athletics has a long list of discrediting actions by athletics. A friend, in a direct email to me the other day, listed about 10. The list could have been longer. My point on the four football players is they should not have been in that situation at all. And, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, O'Brien does. Maybe, after the accusation of the person who claims to have been a part of the program under O'Brien, a look back at O'Brien's other disciplinary actions is in order.

I've said it before and I’ll say it again: college athletes (and all of athletics) live in glass houses. They have to obey rules and law beyond being perfect. They are not ordinary students. They cannot blend into the rest of the student body. If this case were four non-athletics students, the story would not have been front page material, and I would not be writing about it here.

With reference to serving on a Grand Jury, or just a standard jury for that matter, I have as open a mind as anyone and understand how to look at evidence and make judgment based on the evidence and the argument. Unfortunately, I may be too smart for such selection. I was called to jury duty a few months back but was dismissed from two panels in the first round of selections. I was well-dressed, and spoke intelligently, giving thoughtful answers when asked questions by the defense attorneys in both cases. In those cases, I did not fit the profile they wanted. I would welcome the chance to serve on a Grand Jury.

Thanks to Anonymous for chiming in yesterday. But, I think you misinterpreted my thoughts, or on the other hand, maybe I was unclear. If the latter is the case, maybe, just maybe this cleared it up.

1 comment:

  1. Jim, I occasionally don't agree with your point of view, but I view you as one of the most articulate and objective writers that I know. I would like to see you write a column on a regular basis in a prominent newspaper. I am not sure the N&O is worthy. You would make an excellent grand juror even if you are intelligent. I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.


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