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January 13th, 2011
11:57 pm


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language failure
There is an all-too-commonplace event which is lacking an appropriate word. When a person does something publicly and with many witnesses, and that act is a criminal act, s/he is often referred to as the "alleged" so-and-so. This makes no sense, because the burden of a trial is not to determine whether the person committed the actions, but rather whether the person will be punished. For instance, the man who shot Rep. Giffords and others is not an "alleged gunman" - he is a *known* gunman. The only subject of an allegation is whether the shots he fired make him guilty of murder.

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(3 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:January 14th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
I made the EXACT point to Andrew a few evenings ago. We all know he was the gunman. No one doubts it, not even his defense will. The question is whether is is guilty of murder or attempted murder. I guess the media is used to using this phraseology no matter what as a precaution against being sued for libel. I get it, but still.
Date:January 18th, 2011 05:59 am (UTC)

Justice Is Blind

I have always thought the "alleged" or "accused" language gets used not to prevent libel, but because that is how our system of justice works. Even though there is a mountain of evidence, both eyewitness and physical, against the accused, he is considered innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty in a court of law. Calling him "the accused criminal" or "the alleged gunman" until that trial is a fine way, in my opinion, to remind ourselves of a tenet of our legal system we all should hold dear: innocent until proven guilty.
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Date:January 18th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Justice Is Blind

I would agree that a court should refer to any possible act as "alleged.". What I'm talking about are those cases here a photograph of a man holding a gun is captioned "alleged gunman." Further, newspapers are not courts, and given the rush to judgement (cf the accusations regarding Loughner's motives), the idea that we are withholding judgement regarding clear facts makes little sense to me.
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