By Shayan Shirkhodai
On March 30th, 2021, woman-of-many-talents, Chelsea Handler, tweeted the following: “So pathetic that there is a trial to prove that Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd when there is video of him doing so”. I can understand the sentiment; Chauvin — the police officer caught murdering George Floyd on video — seems a difficult target to defend. Still, two (linked) harmful tendencies need to be eradicated from the American mind. First, video ought not to act as a sufficient replacement for courtroom evidence; and second, the growing-in-popularity principle of instant gratification ought not trump the institutional flagship of due process. This is not an issue that leans Left or Right, but instead, one that gravitates towards the sensationalism that drives emotional response and laziness (specifically, the laziness that allows such strong emotional response to dominate methodical rationalism).
One side-effect of emotional responses coupled with laziness quickly surfaces when entertaining Handler’s argument. In this (somehow) simultaneously utopian and dystopian technological age, one must understand that the wonders of technology can be manipulated unfaithfully. This includes the possibility of deep-fakes — videos edited to make events that did not happen look entirely real. The following video, https://ars.electronica.art/center/en/obama-deep-fake/, demonstrates this. Videos are not inherently proof of anything and should not be used as a replacement for due process. Further, courtroom trials allow videos that have been authenticated and legitimized by witnesses to be utilized as evidence, indicating that due process is not only necessary, but the best way to reach truth (and therefore, justice).
Again, it becomes wholly important to remind that the assault on due process can be closer attributed to the desire for instant gratification than progressive politics. While it is true that the far-Left appears prone to making such mistakes, anybody willing to substitute rationalism for emotion will suffer the same susceptibility to lazy (and thus, poorly thought out) solutions. Clearly, the far-Left, or far-Right for that matter, are not the only ones among us who fit this category. Emotions run high everywhere in politics, even amongst moderates (though less aggressively so). Yet, this inescapable utilization of emotion in politics serves as evidence that the Courts, an inherently apolitical institution, should remain as such: this requires maintaining the right to due process, even when emotions call for instant gratification in regards to punishing even the most heinous individuals.
Perhaps one of the common grounds in which Americans can start coming together again revolves around trusting due process; as a doctrine that preaches justice through patience, fact-finding, and the diligence of the legal system (rather than the sensational judgement of public opinion) it may just lower the overall temperature of American society by limiting emotionally fueled accusations (even if they do end up being correct). This is not to say that the American legal system is always correct. Decisions can be, and sometimes are — as in the case with individuals exonerated from death row — wrong; but, the people should let the evidence decide what is right and wrong, and as of Handler’s statement (before the legal authentication of the video she referred to), the evidence is not quite there.