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Kavanaugh Deserves to Be Considered Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Chijioke Achebe '21 Contributing Writer
November 10, 2018

Let me start by saying this: I like to think that I’m a reasonable person with generally moderate political views. I didn’t want to write this piece, but a lot of people have asked me to, and I fear that if I don’t say something explaining the view a lot of members of this community hold, then no one will.

Toward the end of the confirmation process for then- Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and two more women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

I don’t think these allegations were supported. People have suggested that a more in-depth investigation would have helped shed more light on what happened that night. Yes, this might be possible. The FBI conducted a one week investigation of the allegations. We don’t know what exactly was investigated, or how it was done. Again, maybe a longer investigation would have helped. But we have to go on what we know, and clearly, whatever was found wasn’t enough to stop most of the swing vote senators from voting for Kavanaugh.

Even a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted for Kavanaugh after reading the FBI report.

What concerns me is that the presumption of innocence, a core tenet of our judicial process, was cast aside in a lot of the national discourse on the Kavanaugh confirmation. A lot of people immediately said that they believed Dr. Ford and the other accusers, and that Justice Kavanaugh was a sexual assaulter. That’s not how the justice system works.

Now some say that the presumption of innocence isn’t relevant outside the courtroom. Then let’s look at this without the presumption of innocence. If we do that, and focus solely on the evidence presented, it still doesn’t add up.

The evidence presented to the Judiciary Committee against Justice Kavanaugh did not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. Again, some say that outside the courtroom, proving anything “beyond a reasonable doubt” doesn’t matter.

Then ask yourself this: is it really fair to torpedo a nomination based on something we aren’t that sure about? For me, the answer is no. The people Dr. Ford claims attended the party in question all say that they don’t remember the party. While it is true that one of those attendees says that she believes Dr. Ford’s allegation, she also still denies being at that party or knowing Brett Kavanaugh, and that takes us back to square one.

I’m not going to get into the various letters associates of Dr. Ford and Justice Kavanaugh have signed either asserting Kavanaugh’s innocence, or the truth of Dr. Ford’s testimony. I’m only going to look at the evidence here. And that evidence didn’t tell the Senate, and it doesn’t tell me that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Ford. There’s an old Roman principle that goes like this: “It’s better to leave unpunished a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” That applies perfectly in this case.

Now, others have said that Brett Kavanaugh shouldn’t have been confirmed based on his temperament and his visible anger during the second hearing. While this may be a fair point, I think some of that anger was understandable, given that he was defending himself against very serious accusations. However, I think that he went too far at certain points. Justice Kavanaugh realized that he stepped out of line during part of his testimony and apologized for it in an op-ed that ran in the Wall Street Journal the week after the hearing.

The Kavanaugh confirmation, however, raises a completely different issue. It has little to do with Justice Kavanaugh. The fact that a number of my classmates and peers were afraid to share their opinions on Brett Kavanaugh with the community is the fundamental problem with American politics today. If people can’t express their opinions without fear of retribution, then we aren’t in America anymore.

Over the past two years, all we’ve heard is screaming from both sides of the political spectrum. Nothing gets done in Washington because suddenly, it’s a horrible idea to reach across the aisle and get things done for the people who sent those politicians to Washington.

All most of them care about now is what looks good for the base so they can launch a campaign for president in 2020. This toxic partisanship has seeped into the lives of everyday Americans, and now we can’t talk about politics without it turning into a shouting match. I’ve had enough, and I think most reasonable Americans feel the same way. Here’s what I suggest. Find someone you disagree with on any political issue, sit down with them, and talk. It’s not hard, I promise. The Kavanaugh confirmation fight is behind us now. It’s time to move on, and focus on regaining the civility and the decency that makes us American.