In law, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is innocent until proven guilty. But outside the courtroom I see no reason to suspend the ordinary rules of common sense; if I had to bet, I’d bet that he was guilty in fact not merely of this alleged assault but of previous ones. (The endorsement of Bernard-Henri Levy, last seen defending Roman Polanski, somehow fails to persuade.) And it’s fair to ask some tough questions about the political and legal culture of France that apparently allowed DSK to have simultaneous careers in high-level politics and sexual predation.
But this bothers me:
He even was subjected to a ritual familiar to high-profile suspects: the so-called perp walk, providing newspapers around the world with a front-page picture of Mr. Strauss-Kahn being led away from a police station in handcuffs.
It seems to me that showing someone in manacles is a visual statement of guilt. Even putting aside the physical discomfort and personal humiliation of being cuffed, arranging for that photo to be in every newspaper and on every TV news show is an especially vicious and unnecessary form of punishment without trial. Obviously, DSK wasn’t going to escape, or grab a cop’s gun. Even in cases where the cuffs are necessary, showing someone in cuffs isn’t. And it ought to be against the rules.
So while I agree with Matt Yglesias that we should be happy to have a criminal justice system less biased in favor of rich and prominent malefactors than some in France prefer, I’d prefer to equalize on a “perp walks for no one” basis rather than a “perp walks for everyone” basis.
Rudy Giuliani’s decision to perp-walk a bunch of financial-sector folks he couldn’t actually convict is high on the (long) list of reasons we should count ourselves lucky to have been spared a Giuliani Presidency.