Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Voice of Franklin: Where is the Presumption of Innocence for Annie Dookhan?


Inquiring minds are asking: Why is a longtime civil libertarian like myself defending Annie Dookhan, a state chemist accused by the Boston Globe of cavorting with state prosecutors who build their careers on the backs of nonviolent drug defendants in the racist war on drugs? Answer: I am not defending anyone. Rather, I am defending things; namely western jurisprudence and its central pillar, the presumption of innocence.

The recent furor over Dookhan's loosened curfew demonstrates that she has already been found guilty in the media, long before her side of the story has been aired in a public trial. Too many observers seem eager to jump ahead in this case to the punishment phase. But let us remember that everything we have been told so far about Annie Dookhan, including the idea that she "admitted to the allegations," has been the product of her government accusers and of shockingly biased media coverage. There is a major difference between an accused person admitting to a set of allegations and her state accusers claiming she's admitted to them -- particularly when, as in this case, several of those accusing Dookhan stand to benefit personally if their version of events is to be believed.

It is ironic that those condemning Dookhan are essentially doing to her what so many are claiming she did to drug defendants: presume guilt and unjustly convict. Perhaps Annie's pre-judgers would prefer she be shipped off to G'tmo for a quick waterboarded confession so we can get this case over with already. But that is not how true justice works.

If by some miracle it is still possible for Annie Dookhan to receive a fair trial, and if she is legitimately found guilty, then she will of course deserve to be punished. For now let us be careful to remember that she is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that we all would hope for ourselves or our loved ones if we are ever accused of a crime.

Rich Aucoin
Franklin