A man is recorded on a security tape, forcing himself on a little girl in a hallway. The girl is on the ground; the man is leaning over her, holding her neck, his lips pressed to hers. He is stopped by a bystander who is seen rushing into the video and slamming into the attacker, who runs off. The hero finds that the girl is dead. Police are called. Investigations are begun.
The man is found and is identified by comparison with the tape. He is arrested and then released on bail pending a trial date. He is fired from his job. The media goes wild. Local news runs the tape. Facebook and Twitter buzz with calls for justice, especially from angry, empathetic parents who have seen the poor girl's mother and father weeping in their misery on camera.
He deserves everything he gets! He is a sick, twisted pervert. We all hope he goes to jail forever or that he is castrated. The bastard should fry. Eventually, he is punished severely.
Well, I made up this scenario, so I can tell you the truth because it is my story.
The man? He found the girl lying motionless in the hall. He is CPR certified. He was trying to revive her. Not understanding why he had been attacked, the CPR guy feared for his safety when the would-be Samaritan violently attacked him, so he ran.
Our hero doomed the little girl by jumping to conclusions and by scaring off the real hero.
This is not meant to reflect any case in reality, but it is meant to put doubt into the heads of anyone who reads it. I am afraid we are forgetting "innocent until proven guilty," at least when it comes to public opinion. Our emotions are not a good gauge of who should "fry."
Is this scenario likely? No. Is it possible? Yes. And that is why we have due process: so an innocent person does not pay for crime he has not committed. It doesn't help that we, as a society, are so eager do dole out punishment over two minute videos and sound-bytes. We're willing to judge an entire person's life based on what we hear in a news report.
Which is bad enough, but, the other day, I heard a report in which is was stated that, in a particular situation, legal action could be taken against someone who had simply been accused of misdoing. So, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we are not really innocent until proven guilty?