Actually, they do. The investigators kept talking to the little girl and details got confusing and the story started unraveling and around the time she also told about seeing Ricky "touch" her special needs sister, the investigators were suspicious. It all fell apart to reveal that the ex-girlfriend had coached the girl and convinced her that Ricky was a bad man and that she needed to tell the story so he went to jail forever for hurting mommy. The police department considered filing charges against the woman, but in the end, did not. Partly because Ricky asked them not to. He loved the three girls and their Mom was the only one they had to take care of them. He couldn't stand the thought of them in foster care.
He was released from jail. His family welcomed him back with open arms as did most of his friends. Not so the majority of the town. They had seen his face. They had seen the story. It was front page news. He must have been guilty. They certainly hadn't seen anything in the paper telling them he had been found innocent.
Seven months after being released from jail, Ricky moved away from his family and friends to escape the stigma thrown upon him by lies, manipulation and irresponsible media.
In 2006 three students from Duke University are accused of rape. Scandal erupts. I watch the stories and think "how sick and twisted" "how dare they" and "their money better not get them out of it". The boys, who play on Duke's lacrosse team, are charged, arrested and go to trial. The coach of the Lacrosse team is forced to resign, the rest of the season is cancelled for the team, and the case causes a media sensation. Accusations that this is actually a hate crime are hurled. The boys, their families and even students from the school with little to no connection to the case are threatened.
The case falls apart. The boys are found not guilty. The district attorney resigns after it's revealed how rushed and shoddy his case was. The accuser is later is found guilty of child abuse and is awaiting trial for the stabbing death of her boyfriend. And I feel like an idiot.
The presumption of innocence is considered a basic human right. The idea that we are "innocent until proven guilty" is a foundation of the American legal system and noted in the 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution. Why? Because the forefathers had witnessed the tyranny of a country that could jail you for no reason, hold you in prison for any length of time and convict you without due process.
Don't get me wrong when I say this. I want molesters, rapists, traffickers and "johns" to go to jail. When I read statistics about unreported rapes, rapists not being convicted, johns who buy girls for sexual purposes and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, I get more than furious. I steam over the fact that "what were you wearing?" is a common question a rape victim is expected to answer. I want men who violate women in any shape, fashion or form to receive justice. There are some stories that make me want to dispense the justice myself. However, I never want this justice to come without a fair trial. Due process. And that means he must be proven guilty. It does not mean that he must be proven innocent. That's the way it works. It is certainly the way I want it to work if I'm accused of a crime. It's the way you'd want to be treated as well.
Furthermore, the media must be held responsible. If they are going to report on a case, they must be unbiased and report in an objective way. An accusation does not mean front page news and-if it does-an acquittal (or a dropped case) should get the same attention. Someone's life should not be ruined because he/she was accused of doing something. I don't care if innocent men sale less papers than guilty ones.
A few weeks ago a local paper published a story of a guy with charges against him. The story, including a picture of him, was on the front page. I thought about Ricky. I thought about this guy's wife and family. I thought about how wrong it is that they actually printed his address in the article. I realized the paper was already assuming he was guilty. And, since they wrote it that way, most people will read it and assume the same. I'll bet you anything if he's not, they'll never put that on the front page. What will it be like for him walking into work? To church? At dinner with his wife? A family outing with his in-laws? Will he and his wife have to move away to avoid the assumptions? What will it do to his marriage? What if he has kids? Can you imagine what going to school would be like?
You're thinking if he's guilty, he deserves it. But what if he isn't? What does he deserve then? Right now, the one thing he does deserve is to be innocent until proven otherwise.