I Asked a Public Defender about MeToo
Today, at a meeting of my local Democratic Party, a public defender was invited to speak about the judicial system. She spoke to several of its flaws, namely how prosecutors are more interested in convictions than the truth and how one fares in the judicial system depends largely on their wealth. She noted only exception. For accusations of sexual assault, she said that it did not matter if one is rich or poor.
During the Q&A portion of the meeting, I decided to follow that thread. I asked her what she thought about the MeToo movement and whether or not it was actually causing more false convictions for sexual assault. With zero hesitation and the utmost certainty, she told me that it was having just that effect.
She then went on to recount a recent case in which someone was accused but was shown, in the eyes of nearly everyone working at the court, to be innocent because the accuser had been caught in several lies. The jury voted to convict him 11–1, nevertheless. She ultimately had to counsel her client to take a plea deal because the numbers were too stacked against him. She ended up asking the jurors why they voted the way they did, and they told her, “If she said he did it, then he did it.”
I did not expect this answer. I expected seasoned and respected woman of the legal profession to give me a more reassuring answer. I expected to hear that the fears of MeToo are overblown. I hoped that so much of the criticisms of MeToo do not have the foundation in reality that they do. I suppose I no longer have the luxury of assuming otherwise.
One of the other Democrats sitting in the room, an older woman, added some of her own comments. She said, “I think the pendulum has swung the other way and that it needed to swing, but it has swung too far.” Silent hum of agreement filled the room. If we all realize how unreasonable convicting people in direct denial of the truth is, why is this such a problem?
I know that Medium features a lot of articles in support of MeToo, frequently with writers such as Jessica Valenti dismissing critics as merely sexist men who cannot cope with losing power. I think this site and many of its writers would do well to reexamine that attitude and how it poisons the well for our culture. It is this same culture — lest we forget — that fills our juries, and it is these same juries — lest we forget — that decide if we may live free or die behind bars.
With the power of the press, like any power, comes responsibility.