I maintain that this famous “perp walk,” this exit from the police station in Harlem in the blinding light of the flash bulbs of photographers rounded up by the police, was a deliberate humiliation that in no way contributed to the establishment of the truth.
I maintain that the argument that an ordeal would be “the same for everyone” is a fraud reinforced by hypocrisy, because not everyone exiting any police station is greeted by the same gauntlet of image hunters sending shots of their man handcuffed, already discredited, all over the world. This equality of treatment is an illusion of equality concealing an iniquity.
I maintain that by offering this demeaning image of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then heavily stressing the fact of his incarceration in the section of Rikers Island prison reserved for inmates with contagious diseases, and then, finally, granting him release on bail according to, again, unnecessarily harsh conditions usually reserved for Mafia chiefs, they have behaved as though he were already guilty and consequently undermined the principle of presumption of innocence upon which all justice is based.
I maintain that the tabloids which, the moment this story broke, and before we were aware of his version of the facts—or any facts at all—called Strauss-Kahn a “perv” (the New York Daily News headline), were indignant at his release on bail (the New York Post: “Frog Legs It”) and echoed unconfirmed rumors, always playing against him and changing every two hours (hasty departure… airline ticket purchased at the last minute… looking stressed out…), have set themselves up as judges in the place of the judges—which is still another infraction of the most elementary of rules of law.
I maintain that we have seen a tribunal of public opinion install itself around the presumably innocent Strauss-Kahn, one which, contrary to the other, doesn’t bother with evidence or proof or contradictory accounts. And I maintain that this pseudo-tribunal is too noisy, too spectacular, too powerful not to exercise a tremendous influence on the other one, the real one, the one that strives to establish the facts, just the facts, nothing but the facts, when the time comes. The United States dreads and sanctions any pressure on witnesses, and justly so; what can one say about this other pressure, none the less criminal, exercised on the judges by the self-styled DAs of the scandal sheets and, it unfortunately follows, the press in general?
I maintain that the choice of words in which, for example, “the victim” is substituted for “the alleged victim” when one refers to a young woman of whom we know nothing since the police—thank God! it’s a start—protect her anonymity, and whose accusation it will be the task of the court and the legal counsel to validate or not, is part of the same logic of pressure on the law. If, indeed, this young woman is already the victim, then Strauss-Kahn is already the guilty party, and that means that it’s over, Mass has been said, there’s no longer any need for a grand jury—or rather yes, but as a matter of form, like a court charged with registering what the mob has decided.
I would make it clear, in passing, for all those who seem to believe that the struggle against the trivialization of rape necessarily involves the pulverization of the rights of the defense, that I, of course, consider rape and attempted rape as crimes. I believe the presumed victim, if the crime is proven, is entitled not only to this “compassion” the demagogues seeking the approval of all-powerful public opinion mention suddenly, and then in a loop, but to damages compounded by punishment for the culprit. But I maintain, first of all, that as long as the court has not finished its task of assembling and reviewing the facts, interviewing all witnesses, and examining the results of DNA testing, the victim is only the alleged victim; and, second, that, if (who knows?) the supposed culprit should ultimately appear to be innocent, he would be, really, and without possible reparation, the victim of the entire affair.
I maintain that those who are surprised that one doesn’t take the side of the “poor, immigrant woman” as a matter of principle against the “rich and arrogant white man” who supposedly has raped her are reinventing a kind of class justice in reverse. It’s no longer, as before, “poor bastards, the rich are always right” but “rich bastards, the word of the poor is sacred.” This prejudice is as disgusting, no more, no less, than the precedent, and this reversal recalls—at least in France—the notorious affair of Bruay-en-Artois of the early ‘70s, when, because he was a bourgeois, a notary was decreed guilty of a crime, one which, it was later determined, once the winds of hysteria had died down and his existence was already a shambles, he had not, in reality, committed. And thinking about it makes a shiver go down one’s spine.
I maintain that from now on, and more than ever, only one thing is urgent, faced with this drama: to make the howlers shut up; to protect the indicted with the same scrupulousness—and how far we are from that!—as that reserved for the alleged victim; to denounce those who are out for blood and moving in for the kill, like a punishment before the fact, a new episode of which we discover every day, as in a bad reality show. (Just hours ago, a New York hotel, and then a university campus, refused to rent rooms to Strauss-Kahn the pariah and his wife, Anne Sinclair.) And let justice serenely do the work of truth.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is my friend. But it’s not the friend that I am defending here; it is the principle.