The Believe the Victim Movement – Part 1

Prior to the first trial, Hanna’s family was not only able to obtain funds to pay for sessions with a counselor/therapist, but they were automatically offered that opportunity. The DA’s office sent her a letter which told her how to apply for compensation through the Texas Attorney General’s office. I still don’t understand how the AG’s office knew that she was a victim before Steve had been judged guilty. The Attorney General’s website states that someone would be denied those benefits if he or she “knowingly or intentionally submits false or forged information to the attorney general.”

How would they know whether the statements were false or true if (especially as in Steve’s case) no one had investigated her claim? The accused person is, according to the law, considered innocent until they have been proven guilty. Shouldn’t payment to an alleged victim be withheld until after a trial? Wasn’t the state attaching a bias in favor of the accuser by encouraging them to apply for funding as a victim a week after the charges were filed? Doesn’t that also automatically paint the accused as being guilty?

One of the biggest problems with our criminal justice system, in my opinion, is a tendency on the part of some police and prosecutors to take the side of supposed victims without considering the possibility that they might not be telling the truth. I’m not saying that police officers shouldn’t listen to what a potential crime victim’s complaint is, but I do think they ought to at least check it out before they try to arrest someone for committing a crime (especially if it’s not an active shooter or other time-sensitive crime). Here’s an article about that tendency to believe the victim first (and then not waver from that position, even if evidence says otherwise). The article is from the Crime Report blog, presented by the Center on Media Crime and Justice, a non-profit multimedia information and networking resource at John Jay College.

Here’s the article: Has the Justice System Abandoned the Presumption of Innocence?

And here’s a link to the full paper referenced in the article, “Arrests as Guilt.”

Do you agree with the findings in the paper? Do law officers and prosecutors lean too heavily toward the accuser even when evidence points in a different direction? Post your thoughts below.

 Michael Sirois

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