Friday, July 1, 2011

In Defense of the Perp Walk

Since it appears that Dominique Strauss-Kahn may not be History's Greatest Monster, but his accuser may be, and no one but the two of them will really know what happened, I want to offer a counterintuitive take on why it was okay to "perp walk" Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or really any number of high-profile upper class defendants. Read Mark Kleiman for the case against.

The U.S. legal system operates, properly I might add, on the basis that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But there is no reason that as a society we must pretend that people who have never been convicted of a crime are all equally morally upstanding. Strauss-Kahn appears to have a history of being a womanizer, independent of the facts of this particular case. That's wrong. But he can obviously afford high profile lawyers, and even without, there's a good chance he would have never faced any consequences for his actions. Having his face plastered all over the news and reducing the chances that he will run for the French Presidency is all the punishment he'll probably see. That certainly beats no punishment for being a douchnozzle.

And this isn't Strauss-Kahn specific. The DA who dropped the charges against Ben Roethlisberger was right to continue referring to his accuser as "the victim" even after declining to go to trial and face Robo's high-priced lawyers in court. Bart Giamatti was correct to express his personal opinion that he thought Pete Rose bet on baseball, even though the MLB agreed that the league would make no such finding. Proving criminal financial misconduct is incredibly difficult, so I tend to think Giuliani isn't History's Greatest Monster for perp-walking the junk bond dealers and their brethren in the '80s, even if it was also an act of political grandstanding. After all, even the banksters who were convicted of crimes are eventually allowed back into polite society. So make it hurt while you can, that's my motto.
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