The following is the full text of a letter written to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick from Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who is under federal indictment for allegedly accepting a bribe.
In the letter, Turner, who has faced scrutiny in the media and on the floor of city council for his criminal accusations, says the “media colludes with the government in prosecuting those who have been accused” and that “mass media outlets must be prohibited from spreading information that conflicts with the presumption of innocence. Legislation should create standards of financial responsibility in order to compensate inviduals (sic) whose right to presumption of innocence has been violated.”
Read it all, and respond in the comments section.
Five words, Councilor: “Congress shall make no law.”
December 12, 2008
Dear Governor Patrick,
I applaud your recent actions to convene a committee to explore methods of raising the ethical standards of behavior on the part of public officials. In a democratic society, it is essential to have such standards if government is to be able to secure the trust of the governed.
However, my recent experience with the judicial system raises a related set of ethical concerns not covered by the mandate given by you to your panel.‚ My concern is that the panel is not being charged to examine the related ethical issue of how do we protect the accused right to be presumed innocent until guilt has been proven.‚ This is essential to prevent the continued deterioration of our “justice system” given the collusion between government and the media to implant in the minds of the public the presumption of guilt.
Some scholars trace the concept of the presumption of innocence back to the book of Deuteronomy and the Quran. Book 4 of the Roman Code declares “Let all accusers understand that they are not to prefer charges unless they can be proven by proper witnesses or by conclusive documents, or by circumstantial evidence which amounts to indubitable proof and is clearer than day.”
Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose sixtieth anniversary was celebrated on December 10th and which has been signed by the United States, declares “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.” The 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the Constitution of the United States establish the foundation for the principle in American jurisprudence.
However, due to the collusion between media and the prosecution at the local, state, and federal level, there is a trial in the court of public opinion that occurs long before the trial actually begins. This trial is conducted by the media based on unexamined evidence of guilt being presented to the media by the government.‚ Obviously, this process taints the fairness of our system of what we call criminal justice.
In my case, for example, an hour after I was arrested at 6:30 in the morning, the government gave the media a picture that allegedly shows me accepting cash which the government said was proof that I committed extortion. The media then performed its duty by sending the picture throughout the world as proof of my guilt. Yet, three weeks after my arraignment on a grand jury super indictment, my lawyers have still not had an opportunity to see the original picture let alone cross examine the person who is alleged to have taken it.
Meanwhile, columnists have unashamedly proclaimed my guilt. For example, in an amazing statement of the presumption of guilt, Joe Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald said in his November 25th column, “Even if he beats the rap, Turner has blown the chance to be what’s so urgently needed today, a leader to emulate, worthy of a kid’s emulation”.
Others like Joan Venocchi of the Boston Globe and Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix have countered my argument that the media doesn’t have a right to try me with the modern version of the old Flip Wilson one liner, “The devil made me do it”. Their excuse is the feds made them do it.
More specifically, Ms. Venocchi excuses the media’s behavior by pointing to the release by the US Attorney of “evidence” before I was even indicted. “There has also been noise about the release of the photograph on the day of his arrest, as if it’s unfair to show evidence of the alleged crime.”‚ The obvious question for Ms. Venocchi, is “How do you know it is evidence before it can be examined by my lawyers and the presenters cross examined?”
Adam Reilly also ducks behind the feds as if their abusive behavior justifies the media continuing the abuse when he says, “Second, Turner seems to think that the press actively wants to bring him down-when in fact, those of us who are covering Turner‚ are responding to a federal charge?” The question Mr. Reilly needs to answer is how is shipping an alleged picture of my alleged crime a response to the charge.‚ However, you and I know they will never have to respond to such questions.‚ In fact, they will probably try to construe my letter to you as further evidence of my guilt.