I’ve been a New England Patriots fan my whole life given I grew up in New England. Like most, I am loyal to my home teams. But, I am not the star struck kind of fan. I am just as proud of Tom Brady as I am all the New England Patriot players (unless you are a domestic abuser, child molester, rapist, or murderer). But, I must say that this time Brady caught my attention.
This whole #deflategate thing was out of control. Like most things that make no sense to veterans, I didn’t have the energy to even engage when my priority is trying to educate society about the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide a day. I don’t understand the whole Kim Kardashian obsession either. In fact, I don’t understand a lot of things in the ‘real world’ as I transition from military to civilian. But one thing I do understand is that Tom Brady’s deflategate case revealed an emerging due process theme with what I refer to as ‘kangaroo courts’.
The National Football League imposes it’s own brand of justice by forcing it’s members to go through an in-house trial spearheaded by the organization itself. In theory, one would think that this might be helpful given we don’t necessarily want to clog up our civilian courts with even more cases. But what I am observing is that time after time civilian courts are overturning decisions made by these entities because the accused’s Constitutional Rights were not upheld, including Tom Brady.
Players armed with high-priced lawyers and publicists, and backed by a players’ union led by a former prosecutor, have mined sometimes arcane labor law to argue they were denied due process and to resist Goodell’s self-proclaimed goals to rein in misconduct. (New York Times)
The first National Football League case that caught my attention was the case against Ray Rice. I, like most Americans, was blown away by the video footage of a violent act of abuse towards his wife. As a result of this evidence, Americans took to social media to express their outrage. Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, eventually responded with an ‘indefinite suspension’ for Ray Rice. Ray Rice appealed that decision, won, and was restored to his original status because once again, we had a due process issue.
“In this arbitration, the NFL argues that Commissioner Goodell was misled when he disciplined Rice the first time,” Jones wrote in her decision. “Because, after careful consideration of all of the evidence, I am not persuaded that Rice lied to, or misled, the NFL at his June interview, I find that the indefinite suspension was an abuse of discretion and must be vacated.” (NFL)
Due process is no joke. Everyone deserves due process. Until you are accused of a crime you did not commit, you will not understand the importance of this right afforded to us by our Founding Fathers. We have laws in place and judges in our civilian courts who refine the due process clause daily in favor of the accused. Quite often cases are thrown out because due process was not afforded to the defendant. As a victim of a crime, I understand how frustrating it is to watch the defendant go through the process with more rights then I have. But this is a staple of the Bill of Rights and what makes America unlike any other country, the Land of the Free.
I was drawn to these NFL cases because I noticed the emerging theme of internal justice systems denying due process rights. We’ve seen these same issues come to light with the military justice system (an independent court system in the military that upholds a different set of laws for the military, the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the newly created college tribunals designed to give victims a place to turn other then the police departments after a sexual assault.
The military justice system has been a point of contention in recent years in Congress because military sexual assault victims believe they are not given a fair shot at justice because Commanders, not military prosecutors, make the decision whether or not to pursue charges against the accused. Until recently, they also had the power to throw out a successful conviction. These arguments are backed by the fact that it is just common sense that military prosecutors have more education about the laws and legal process and should be the ones who ultimately decide whether or not a victim has a case.
In the last couple of years, Congress and the White House have also spearheaded efforts to curb sexual abuse at our colleges and universities across the country. As a result, college tribunals have been created to address sexual assault complaints (or the college faces huge fines if they do not comply). According to reports, sexual assault victims at colleges and universities do not feel comfortable reporting their assaults to the local police department and would rather seek justice internally.
The argument has become a civil right’s Title IX issue which affirms they have a right to an education and safety. College tribunals only require a preponderance of the evidence which means more then 50% of the evidence points to the fact that the accused did commit the crime. The criminal court proceedings require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime.
Although most courts refuse to attach any numbers to the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some people believe it means 90%, 95%, or even 99% confidence that the accused did the crime. ~Legal Match
But some believe the college sexual assault policy response is riddled with due process issues. Some students who were accused and found guilty by these college tribunals are claiming that their due process rights were violated and as a result are suing the college or university. Harvard Law professors spoke out publicly in defense of due process. Once again, we are back to the due process argument, which cannot be discounted or overlooked while we navigate our way to justice.
In closing, please note that an internal justice machine in the National Football League, the military, and at our colleges and universities are handling violent crimes and felonies. And all three ‘Kangaroo Courts’ have been called under fire for denying due process rights, hence rendering the original accusation null and void. The NFL players can turn to the federal courts. Colleges and university students can turn to anyone. And military members have nowhere to turn except Congress. Congress wants these internal tribunals as evidenced by the laws they have passed and continue to advance.
As a citizen of America, I want everyone to report violent crimes to their local police department that’s interconnected with a national system so we can catch, prosecute, and jail these roaming predators. Predators do not respond to “Please, do not rape.” They can’t stop and their behavior only escalates and perfects over time until they are stopped. Releasing them back into society is a recipe for disaster as evidenced by the incredibly high recidivism rates and incidents of escalation to murder.
In this digital age, everyone should be going to one centralized location so police investigators can piece together the multiple crimes perpetrated by only a few. It takes courage to report and you have the power to prevent these crimes from happening to someone else. But we cannot convict the accused if we do not provide them with their due process rights, the same rights we would want afforded to us if we were ever accused of a crime we did not commit.