Essay

Guilty versus Not Guilty [Flash Fiction]

From a law student’s notebook

found on a chair next to the chair

the editor of this review sat at

for lunch at 9 Tastes Thai on JFK Blvd.

in Cambridge one semi-chilly afternoon

in early May waiting for an undergraduate student

who was attending Harvard at the time

  1. Once a suspect goes to trial, he is only ever either guilty or not guilty. There is no longer the sense of innocence. The latter of the two, guilty or not guilty, is agreed on only if there is too much doubt over the evidence to say guilty. Yes, it is true that an innocent man is not guilty, but it is not collaterally true that a not guilty man is necessarily innocent. O.J. was not declared innocent. In face of occurrences historically where innocent black men were frequently found guilty in courts of law, finding a man not guilty who for many was certainly not innocent, was an instance of justice being met, or at least I have presumed. The police do not pursue innocent people, understand. This is why it has to be established as a convention to be upheld, presumed innocent. But since when, in anyone’s mind, is a presumption a positively reenforced action or position?
  2. No one is ever declared innocent in an American court of law. Innocence is not the issue to be settled by trial. There is only guilty or not-guilty at the end of any trial in a court of law. This presumes there must be something valent, something viable, something credible in any suspicion that brings a person to trial. In fact, the court is not even interested in guilt. There is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s irrespective of actuality. There is something of the art of performance in court trials; they are theaters. There is something of sport in them too; they are games to be played on a field, so to speak, with rules of foul and fair, can and cannot.
  3. Trials are places where we weigh evidence and testimony to judge guilty or not guilty. Every trial hangs in a balance; the balance itself one of the symbols of justice. You can see her atop many municipal courts; the blind-folded lady holding up a balance in her hand. Yes, Justice is blind as Tiresias is blind. Their blindness not the same as Oedipus’s blindness, or Lear’s.
  4. The two sides of the scale are hinged, thus extremely close as are guilty and not-guilty separated bt a razor’s edge that cuts sharply. Remember, we the people are only “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law; innocence, though, it must be reiterated, is only a presumption, a convention in the playing out of the trial. Once a person is a suspect in any crime, or even the potential of a crime, he is not innocent. There are in this act suspicion or being a suspect only degrees of guilt, and these go from most guilty to least guilty; from maybe guilty to yes, guilty, or no, not guilty, this latter only after the fore mentioned trial. No court of law declares anyone innocent; anyone in any legal justice system that declares someone innocent that should not have gone to trial is actually being disingenuous because that person understands the limits of trying someone only determine guilty or not guilty, whether the person is innocent or not.

 

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