Jul. 22nd, 2009

zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Diddums)
In more-or-less breaking news, twelve people in New Zealand have agreed that stabbing someone 216 times counts as murder, not manslaughter. (Note for those unfamiliar with the case: the text in that article is ambiguous on the subject, but there's in fact no evidence whatsoever that the victim ever attacked the murderer with those scissors.)

So after doing a little cheer (because it was just nauseating to see that guy in national news justifying his actions by claiming that his victim was "controlling" and a "bitch" and a "slut" and that Google proved she had a personality disorder etc) -- and then doing a big cheer -- I started pondering that old adage.

Innocent until proven guilty.

This is a good adage with good reasons for it. If you start out assuming guilt, the defendant won't get a fair trial, and that's not good; not to mention the potential social stigma.

But and however. This works just fine for 'victimless' crimes; but it fails horribly when the crime is against a victim. Because in that case, to assume that the defendant is innocent requires assuming that the alleged victim is lying, deluded, or somehow otherwise to blame for the alleged crime.

In other words, assuming that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty frequently entails assuming that the victim is guilty until proven innocent. Victim-blaming isn't just a side-effect of our justice system; it's what the system is *built* on.

This is broken. If we hold the principle that we may not believe without proof that the defendant's alleged actions justify a jailterm, then to believe without proof that the victim's alleged actions justify having a banjo stuffed down his throat is nothing but hypocrisy. A truly fair system should assume that the victim, just as much as the defendant, is innocent.

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