Vriezen: Strauss-Kahn’s release is reasonable

Claire Vriezen

Roughly three months ago, there was quite a media kerfuffle over allegations of sexual assault by the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The story was that Strauss-Kahn assaulted a hotel housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo. This past Tuesday, the charges against Strauss-Kahn were dropped. These charges were dropped at the request of the prosecution, no less, who believed that the testimony they had received from Diallo was no longer credible.

It appears that Diallo had told several very different accounts of the incident at varying times, in addition to previously providing false information about a sexual assault on her application for asylum from Guinea.

With inconclusive physical evidence, the authorities were only left with Strauss-Kahn’s word versus Diallo’s. With Diallo’s testimony under scrutiny, and ultimately found to be unreliable, it is unlikely a jury would be able to convict Strauss-Kahn beyond a reasonable doubt.

Despite the facts and information surrounding the case, many remained convinced of Strauss-Kahn’s guilt.

It is true, Strauss-Kahn could very well be guilty of the crimes with which he was charged. He may have simply managed to evade justice because his victim failed to maintain the same story for unknown reasons. As it is, the varying accounts given by Diallo has cast significant doubt on her story. And Dominque Strauss-Kahn remains innocent until proven guilty.

It seems the public and the media too often forget this small fact: Simply because someone is charged with a crime does not render them automatically guilty. In fact, the French were somewhat shocked and outraged when the American press released pictures of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs, being led away. In France, it is illegal to depict those accused of crimes in things such as handcuffs — it is believed that such images will do away with the “presumption of innocence” that the accused holds.

Unfortunately, those who are arrested or charged with various crimes are frequently found guilty in the eyes of the public before a trial has even begun.

While rape and sexual assault cases must certainly be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly, sometimes it is true that the accuser is not in fact a victim. We may never know if Strauss-Kahn was truly innocent of the charges brought against him, but as it stands, Strauss-Kahn is still presumed as such.

It is the nature of our justice system that the guilty may sometimes go free. A flaw for certain, but at this point, necessary. The amount of evidence required to convict the accused and the proof needed is set intentionally high to avoid unjust convictions. It is viewed as better to run the risk of the guilty going free than to falsely imprison an innocent.

Some may view the Strauss-Kahn case as an example of a powerful man getting away with taking advantage of a immigrant woman. Until this has been proven, perhaps in the civil lawsuit that Diallo is bringing against Strauss-Kahn, I prefer to think of it as an example of a man being let go because there was no reliable evidence to pursue the criminal charges.

We can only deal in the facts in cases such as this. Because the current facts don’t support the allegations of Ms. Diallo, it is a perfectly reasonable and acceptable action to set Dominique Strauss-Kahn free.