Regardless of the stature of a person indicted for a crime, in the United States criminal justice system, all individuals are innocent until proven guilty. When a famous person is indicted for a crime, however, the public often condemns the person before the criminal justice system is allowed to run its course.
The reality however, is a heavy burden is placed on the government to make sure it has good enough evidence to prosecute the case. If the prosecution does not have enough evidence, or if the quality of the evidence is questionable, it is unwise to move forward with the case.
Most people are aware of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. This past May, the 62-year-old former managing director of the International Monetary Fund and potential French presidential candidate, was pulled off an airplane bound for his home country, France, and arrested. He was accused of sexually assaulting a New York City, hotel housekeeper. The press was there to capture it all. The case caused an uproar throughout the country and the man was immediately cast as the villain.
The alleged victim in the case, a 33-year-old woman from Guinea, was initially seen as credible and prosecutors plowed full speed ahead into the case. As the investigation went on however, a series of lies she had told both in her past and in relation to the case at hand were uncovered and the confidence in her dwindled.
This past Tuesday, the case came to an end without going to trial when it was dismissed at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
There are many things that go into prosecuting and defending a criminal case. One of them is the presence of credible witnesses. Though usually thought about in the context of testimony at trial, this case illustrates its importance at other stages as well. Because the physical evidence in this case could not conclusively confirm that a sexual assault occurred, testimony of the only witness to the crime was vital.
To many who have been arrested and charged with a crime, they are overcome with a feeling of hopelessness. They may feel as though they are facing an up-hill battle. This case illustrates the importance of fighting an indictment. There are many directions a case, even one that initially appears airtight, can go.
After spending the last three months in the U.S., Mr. Strauss-Kahn is now free to pick-up where he left off earlier this year, and can return to France.
The New York Times: “Strauss-Kahn Drama Ends With Short Final Scene,” John Eligon, Aug. 23, 2011