Monday, May 16, 2011

Law & Order, Live

As you might imagine, the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, in New York for attempted rape among other charges is the major, not to say only, subject on the lips of the French at the moment.  The television shows have brought out all the talking heads, the newspapers are all over it, and the bail hearing is being televised live as we speak.  The French will be getting a quick lesson in the American judicial system, very different from their own, and the experts are all over the TV news shows, explaining it all.

The general response seems to be that although Strauss-Kahn has a history of sexual escapades that is well-known to the journalists who cover politics as well as to the public that interests itself in the private lives of politicians, it has remained just that, his private life, not so different from Chirac, Mitterand, and many others.

The notion that a man who looked, until yesterday, to be the likely next president of France could possibly be so out of control as to sexually attack a hotel chambermaid makes at least the French left talk about set-ups, about mental illness, about anything other than crime. 

The news program I'm watching has just announced that the judge has denied bail until he can be brought before a grand jury.  He'll be in jail until at least Friday.  He was scheduled to be in Germany at a meeting of the Eurozone finance ministers, discussing the Greek economic crisis.  Not this week.


Julie said...

I wondered how this was going to be received in France. You're watching French TV I assume. They're as bad as us with all the "talking heads."

Shelli said...

They're horrified by the 'perp walk' in handcuffs. Not the way to assure the presumption of innocence, I have to agree, for any accused person.

Julie Runkle said...

Maybe he was being very tetu and wouldn't cooperate but, yes, I thought the handcuffs were a bit much.

Terry said...

The French press did much worse than the "perp walk" photos a few years ago. The rules about that must have changed. Being still under Napoleonic Code, in France (if I understand it correctly) the accused bears the burden of proof - IOW, s/he is guilty until proven innocent. Twenty years ago I saw Paris Match photos of a man accused of serial murders, a two-page black and white close-up of his perp walk, with the shrieking headline "MURDERER? MONSTER?" or somesuch.

Yes, here in the US they photograph the perp walk and anything else they can focus their lenses on, but when the rubber meets the road, it is the prosecution who must prove the accused person's innocence. The French should unclench; he's far more likely to get a fair trial here than in France, under Napoleon's ridiculous "guilty until proven innocent" law.

And juries here are not idiots - most citizens, believe it or not, ARE able to sift evidence and testimony fairly. I've served on two juries and I came out proud of our system and our people.