C’est-à-dire : Honte sur le système judiciare américain ! Translation: Shame on the American judicial system! I devoted an entire blog post two days ago to skewering a French deputy/jurist for what I considered to be his idiotic, ignorant comments on the American system. But this does not mean that there are not some grave problems with the way justice functions in the US. When I saw the photos yesterday of DSK’s “perp walk”—what a loathsome, despicable practice!—I had tears in my eyes, just as when I saw the above cover of today’s Libération. J’avais les larmes aux yeux et les ai toujours. I have hardly been tender or indulgent toward DSK in this affair, as anyone who has read my posts will know, but he absolutely does not deserve to be publicly humiliated in this way. No one does. When I heard the news last night that DSK had been sent to Rikers Island—fuc*ing Rikers Island!—I was in shock. Not only are people here in shock, they are also repulsed and outraged by the public humiliation of DSK, who has now been symbolically convicted in the public square even before the grand jury has met to decide whether or not to indict him. Yesterday’s NY Times web site had a piece on this, where Élisabeth Guigou, expressing the prevailing view on the photos of DSK in handcuffs, said “I found that image to be incredibly brutal, violent and cruel”… The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and a major political figure of a leading democracy in handcuffs… This is, as we know, standard operating procedure for the police in the US. Including for six-year olds. If there is anyone in America who wants to defend this practice—and knowing America, I am quite sure there are many—do speak up. And while you’re at, do come to France and defend it publicly, before an audience of law-abiding citizens (I can translate if need be).
One of the effects of the French public’s humiliation and anger at the spectacle in New York—of the perp walk and Rikers Island—has been to distract attention from the serious charges leveled at DSK. And to fuel one of the more unfortunate reflexes here, which is to view America as a repoussoir and in almost all matters (a syndrome that afflicts even many Frenchmen and women who know and like America). In the aforementioned NYT piece, Élisabeth Guigou said “I am happy that we do not have the same judicial system.” I think what she has in mind is perp walks and the like, not the entire system. Those who defend American justice—and this includes a number of French observers—say that it is egalitarian. Perp walks for all, including the rich and famous. The American judicial system treats everyone equally. Yes, that’s right. It is also, as we know all too well, the best judicial system money can buy. In this respect, DSK may—irony of ironies—end up being a huge beneficiary. With his ample financial means, his top flight defense team—his lawyers are apparently the best in the business for the crimes he has been accused of—may be able to get him out of this one in the end. If O.J. Simpson can get off scot-free, then anything can happen in an American court room. If such happens to DSK, he’ll most certainly come back to Paris a hero, un rescapé des ténèbres de la justice américaine. Who knows, it might get him elected Président de la République after all…
UPDATE: From GlobalPost.com: “French outraged at American justice system’s handling of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.” Money quote:
Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia University law professor who lectures occasionally in France, said that showing defendants in a bad light is a time-honored ploy. “Cuffing DSK and perp-walking him is more evidence against him,” he said. “It is typically American. Prosecutors visually convict people, shifting presumption of innocence to guilt. One loses one’s dignity upon arrest. In France, dignity remains at all costs.” The idea of equality before the law in America is an “aspiration,” he said, essentially a myth. Strauss-Kahn is French, rich and white, accused of raping a black woman in a city that is 50 percent minority. “This is a trophy for the prosecutors,” Fagan concluded. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
(h/t Christopher Dickey)