Do you know this expression innocent until proven guilty? I have heard it so many times it’s not funny anymore. I hear it almost every time I write about the mystery surrounding Elliott Smith’s death, as some people become suddenly so guarded and politically correct… Of course, I don’t see this happening very much on Facebook where people who have subscribed to the ‘Justice for Elliott Smith’ group share my point of view, but there are occasionally a few people who got enraged by an article… But things get really heated most of the time outside of Facebook, and I regularly get comments like this one:
‘We are not here to judge him or his significant other. Divine justice will write all wrongs. We are here to celebrate his life, not to obsess over his death.’
And this is one of the nicest ones! This argument that we must consider someone ‘innocent until proven guilty’ comes back very often, and I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. The idea that we should not judge is actually quite stupid because our life is based on making judgments, good or bad, but this is totally unavoidable. How could we start trusting people without judging them? How could you start liking anyone or anything without making a judgment? We judge the food we eat, the music we get to hear, the movie we go see, the person we have just met. Life is judgment, life is evaluating other people’s actions, we are totally wired for this. According to neurobiologists (and this TED talk by Rebecca Saxe explains it very clearly) we are equipped to judge other people’s actions, and this process is attached to a very specialized part of the brain, which slowly develops during childhood. It is a necessity to operate in a society. Many studies done on babies show that babies as young as five-month-old have the ability to differentiate between good people and bad ones! This other article in Time magazine says that our brain is able to make a snap decision about how trustworthy a person is… I could go on.
We judge at a very early age and that’s why I don’t get what’s the problem with adults saying we shouldn’t judge! The ‘innocent until proven guilty’ statement just applies in the courtroom, not only we have the right to express an informed opinion outside of it, but we should! Expressing and writing what we think is part of our rights. What are people so afraid of?
In the example of Elliott’s death, I have gathered enough discrepancies and uncertainties to have an opinion about the case, and to, at least, question his girlfriend’s innocence. I am not judging her in a courtroom, I am not sitting at the jury table, I am just expressing an very informed opinion in a free society, and the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not apply here. Plus how many people got away with murder because the prosecutor wasn’t not able to prove their guilt? Does this mean that Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson, and Robert Blake were innocent? Proving someone’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is actually a very hard thing to do, meanwhile I have a complete right to think that these people are murders. Criminals often go free, justice fails repeatedly and history repeats itself too. I still think that Courtney Love’s actions were very suspicious at the time, just look at this site if you want more information. Similarly, Jennifer Chiba’s narrative and overall behavior have made me suspicious, I have complete right to express my opinion about the subject, and there is nothing immoral at doing so.
Originally published on Rock NYC (January 27 2015)