What the Kavanaugh hearings and the Van Dyke trial have in common

The death of the time-honored and common law presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Chicago is fearful of riots if police officer Jason Van Dyke is not convicted of murder for his fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. In Washington, Democrats unleashed a cynical assault on Supreme Court nominee Brett Cavanugh in which the the judge had to prove his innocence instead of the accusers having to prove his guilt.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Judge Brett Kavanaugh

That both these assaults are being conducted by Democrat and left-wing partisans should be instructive. Sadly, they don’t understand the consequences of their actions and that is frightening. Frightening because a growing segment of America seems to reject a fundamental principle that has served America so well. Frightening because if the rest of America sits by without condemning this assault, an unraveling of our system of justice and our constitutional system of governance will be turned against us all, without regard to our politics or our race.

In the Van Dyke case, some in the media (e.g. Eric Zorn) and elsewhere (e.g. Michael Pfleger) have substituted their opinions for the jury’s decision. Zorn instructed the jury to watch and convict. Pfleger called for a city “shutdown” if Van Dyke is not convicted.

Neither has been in the courtroom to listen to all the evidence and judge the veracity of each and every witness. Neither is in the courtroom participating in the deliberations. It’s an important distinction. One that substitutes public opinion, polling and, possibly mob rule, to become part of the equation.

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens to closing arguments (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / Pool)

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens to closing arguments (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / Pool)

Neutrality in criminal trials is a position that I’ve tried to follow as an op-ed columnist for 30 years for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Even when O.J. Simpson was acquitted on murder charges–a decision that was widely criticized–“I kept my opinion to myself.

Now we have people threatening to “go to the streets” if the jury doesn’t agree with their pre-ordained conclusions. Why don’t we just dispense with criminal trials and go straight to lynchings?

Clarence Thomas knew something about lynchings when he angrily condemned the “high tech lynching” of him by Democrats and liberals during his own Senate hearings  into his nomination to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s angry condemnation of the same crowd for his political lynching was justified.

Well before the evidence was in,  Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Kavanaugh was unfit to fill a seat on the high court and that he would do whatever it took to stymie the nomination. The prevailing attitude among his Democrat colleagues is that anyone that President Donald Trump nominates must be stopped. (How reminiscent of how Democrats roundly condemned Republican leader Mitch McConnell for pledging to make Barack Obama a one-term president.)

The way that Democrats withheld any mention of sex abuse charges against Kavanaugh until they had fired their last bullet against Kavanaugh is politically and ethically bad enough. But their insistence that Kavanaugh had to prove his innocence before his accusers had proven his guilt is one of the most outrageous assaults in American political history since the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy blacklisted Americans for allegedly being communists without a scintilla of proof.

Back then, in the 1950s, Democrats and liberals were McCarthy’s most vocal opponents. No longer. For them “guilty until proven innocent” is their norm. Which is why I’m no longer a Democrat or a liberal.



My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

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  • If the ONLY objection to Brett Kavanaugh's elevation to the Supreme Court were the uncorroborated charges of sexual assault, you'd have a point. However, the good judge lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about several issues, not the least of which was receiving stolen records while he was in the employ of the Bush White House. he also demonstrated a marked lack of the requisite judicial temperament and lack of bias for a Supreme Court justice.

    I believe there is more than sufficient reason to reject Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court that has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual impropriety. You can turn a deaf ear to the truth, but that doesn't turn it into a lie!

  • In reply to HHH Is My Hero:

    I hope you have been listening to Senator Collins eloquent honest and intelligent speech on the floor today.

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    In reply to HHH Is My Hero:

    And of course you failed to mention what that "more" is...probably because it doesn't exist.

  • fb_avatar

    Dennis--you forgot to mention Neil Steinberg's Sun-Times columns attacking Judge Kanvanough for his high school foibles. Steinberg is the same guy whose wife had him arrested for his drunken beatings of her a few years back.

  • In reply to Ken Dietz:

    A good example of attacking the messenger.

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