Enough Already About Dominique Strauss-Kahn

By Eileen Servidio, Ph.D., President of the School of International Relations at AGS

Posted on May 19th, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn - DSK, as he is known in France - is accused of some pretty serious crimes, inter alias, attempted rape, illegal imprisonment. Remark please the key word here, ‘accused’. Not convicted, not guilty, but accused.

Do I really have to bring up the presumption of innocence? I do hope not.

Here is what I know, what I think and what I feel. Often three very different things.

What I know: Very few and often contradictory ‘facts’.

Will he be convicted? No one really knows.

Is he guilty (not to be confused with being convicted). Most likely, only two people know this for sure at the moment.

pI do know a man’s political career has suddenly ended. Is this forever? I do not know.

What do I think: I think that he should have been released on bail. I think if the judge was worried that he presented a flight risk confiscating his passport and even placing an electronic bracelet on him would have been enough. I think in some way DSK is paying the price for the Polanski fiasco. I think that the accusatory justice system (eg. USA) can protect the rights of an accused person as much as the inquisitorial system (eg. France). In a nutshell, the accusatory procedure is run by the parties of a criminal case, on the one side the district attorney representing the State, on the other, the accused person. The judge in this system acts as a ‘referee’, making the legal decisions necessary and overseeing the fair movement of the proceedings. In the inquisitorial system, the proceedings are directed by one judge after the other beginning with the prosecuting judge, then if it is a very serious crime, an instructing judge, and of course the trial judges (generally three) who actually deliberate and decide with the jury.

Which do I think is the fairer system? I see good and bad in both (actually more bad in both, but that is another discussion). However, to say (as I have been hearing a lot lately) that in the accusatorial system the district attorney tries only to find evidence against the accused person without looking for proof to the contrary only demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge of the American system. If a DA was bringing case after case to court without hard evidence and then losing these cases due to this, he/she would not be a DA for long (unlike in France where the prosecuting judges hold on to their functions as judges for life).

Do I think that the USA has a more ‘egalitarian’ justice system in the sense that even rich, important persons are treated like everyone else; they all walk the ‘perp’ walk in NY. They all can be seen publically in handcuffs. They all look like they have spent a few days on a park bench at their preliminary hearing from want of a shower and a shave. I think that often, prominent people are treated as poorly as anyone else. I think that this influences public opinion against them and I think that no one should be treated this way. No one. Does this mean that the person may not get a fair trial? Not necessarily. Does this mean that the person’s reputation, job, personal life is negatively affected? Probably. And that no matter of the eventual outcome of the trial.

What do I feel? Right now I feel sorry for DSK since I am presuming his innocence as one should be doing. His political career was buried almost minutes after his arrest. If he is found guilty, well then I will not feel so sorry anymore.

The alleged victim, I think I will feel sorry for no matter what happens.

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