Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guilty, Not Guilty, and Now Introducing: Totally Not Guilty

Or: Why Arguments for Telecom Innocence are Irrelevant and Boring.

Proponents of telecom amnesty use the justification that telecoms are innocent. Typically I don't argue back; why should I? It's irrelevant.

These proponents have apparently invented the bold new "totally not guilty" determination. It works as follows: there are no rules of evidence and no evidence is presented. No testimony is given by any of the parties involved and there are no perjury laws in effect. The specific charges are not considered. There is no judge, no jury and no prosecutor -- only a defense advocate. This advocate may or may not have any relevant knowledge, legal background or familiarty with the case. They simply write that the defendant is totally not guilty and then they totally are, just like that. Of course, thanks to double jeopardy laws, once a defendant is declared totally not guilty they are immune from retrial in traditional court.

Sarcasm? Hardly. This is exactly what proponents of telecom amnesty believe: that it's possible to determine, without any sort of process, that a defendant is not guilty to the point where they don't have to show up in court and defend themselves to begin with.

Telecom amnesty proponents want the discussion to devolve into a confusing debate over selectively quoted and purposely misinterpreted court rulings and legal theories. These legal arguments are presented in non-legal settings to convince us that a proper legal setting is unessecary. Like the guy who's so good at crushing a whiffle ball off a tee with a little plastic bat that a major league tryout is a formality best avoided these amnesty proponents make such convincing arguments in press releases, blogs and and op-eds that they render court proceedings extraneous.

Maybe some day the totally not guilty determination will exist someplace other than in the minds of inventive authoritarians. I'll humbly suggest that until that day comes legal disputes should be resolved using a standard legal process rather than a convenient newly-invented one that amounts to trial by Wall Street Journal columnists.

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