LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Our selective moral outrage

I am always bewildered when a story catches our national collective attention where you have the classic “perpetrator gets off easy or completely escapes justice altogether” scenario.

We as a society despise when we perceive such miscarriages of justice happen. However, in rightfully doing so, we espouse a certain collective selective moral outrage.

The most recent example would be that of the college swim star who was sentenced to serve six months for dragging an unconscious girl behind a Dumpster and raping her. I am in complete agreement with the rest of you that say the judge was far too lenient and the six-months sentence is a travesty of justice; the convicted rapist should have been sentenced to much more time than the six months.

But, and this is where I struggle to understand — as a society, we are much more tolerant of cases where innocent people are wrongfully prosecuted and wrongfully convicted:

1) Brian Banks story, whereas a promising high school football player was wrongfully convicted of rape and spent six years in prison until the alleged victim recanted her story and admitted she made it up.

2) Duke lacrosse team and the corrupt DA who broke every rule in the book and continued to try and wrongfully convict these young men even when he possessed exonerating exculpatory evidence.

3) The ridiculous UVA/Rolling Stone rape hoax where an entire fraternity was wrongfully accused of gang rape but the Rolling Stone [magazine] printed the story from the mythical account of the emotionally disturbed young lady who initiated the hoax.

4) The now debunked “Mattress Girl” from Princeton University who carried her mattress around campus because of her story [that] she was raped by another student. Her story would later be found not credible by investigators; the media and ideologically driven advocates would still hail her a heroine.

Where is that same collective moral outrage?

And thanks to the advent of DNA technology, our eyes have been forced open to the fact that our system has wrongfully prosecuted, convicted, placed on death row and even exterminated innocent people, more frequently than we dare imagine.

In the book “False Justice” by (former) Republican Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, we learn that (if) our justice system is 99 percent accurate, it is a conservative estimate that over 23,000 innocent citizens could be sitting in prison (wrongfully convicted) as we speak.

From both a well-known liberal and a conservative, we see a commonality of belief pertaining to sacrificing the innocent to get to the guilty.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that his support of American use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” against suspected terrorists was unchanged by the fact that 25 percent of CIA detainees subject to that treatment were later proven to be innocent, including one who died of hypothermia in CIA custody. “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent.” Asked whether the 25-percent margin was too high, Cheney responded, “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. … I’d do it again in a minute.”

Liberal columnist Ezra Klein supported California’s SB 967 “Affirmative Consent” law with the same reasoning as Cheney’s [that] supported “enhanced interrogation techniques.” While claiming the law was “terrible” and could be used to punish people who did not commit rape, Klein states “its overreach is precisely its value” and “ugly problems don’t always have pretty solutions.”

I think we are all very “gung ho” regarding this type of protection political-speak rhetoric, unless we unfortuitously find ourselves, or a loved one, as one of those sacrificial innocents.

Let’s stop being selective with our moral outrage: as we condemn one injustice, let’s not allow our silence to condone another.

Gordon Smith
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Formerly of Felton

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