Indictments and Presumption of Innocence

Watching the Rod Blagojevich drama unfold is, I think, an object lesson in the erosion of civil liberties in this country.  At around the same time that the Bill of Rights celebrated its birthday, there’s an Attorney General trying to have Illinois’s Supreme Court declare an individual unfit to serve, based on allegations of wrong-doing.  Not a judge- or jury-provided conviction, just allegations.  Nothing has been proven, and yet she’s pushing to have Governor Blagojevich removed from office.

Now, of course, the reasoning is that it is unseemly for a State to have someone in office who is under indictment, because it just, you know, looks bad.  (That’s putting a charitable spin on background intentions.)  But it’s a testament to the total erosion of the theory that individuals are innocent until proven guilty, and it provides a unique insight to the mind-set of law enforcement officials, because Ms. Madigan appears absolutely convinced that she has proven guilt, even though there has been no trial.

Governor Blagojevich may very well indeed be proven guilty, but, even if he’s not, the damage is already done because every news outlet and late-night comedy show has simply assumed his guilt and has run with it.

This isn’t how the United States is supposed to behave.