Faster than the speed of civility

Ugly public reaction to Dean indictment trumped prudence

Who knows how many people's stomachs turned sickeningly Wednesday at such shocking news.

A grand jury issued a two-count indictment of child molestation against former Harlem Mayor and Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean.

The crimes of which Dean are accused are revolting and utterly indefensible.

But the way in which portions of the public, especially online and in social media, are eviscerating him -- scornfully ignoring his right to a fair trial, without an ounce of civility -- is deplorable.

Communications today can be miraculous with its speed and ease. But it's also sadly misused. Instant communications allow for regrettable sentiments to be put forth more quickly than the calm mind might consider prudent.

Within minutes of the information appearing online, commenters fell over one another apparently trying to throw Dean's Sixth Amendment rights in the garbage -- using some of the most disgusting language they could muster. Reaction was so shrill that The Augusta Chronicle's Web site turned off its comment thread on the Dean story.

Many comments extended beyond hate. People were expressing glee over Dean's circumstances. Remember, this is a man who is still presumed innocent under the law.

Also, few people understand that grand jury indictments are relatively easy to achieve. The standard of proof is "probable cause," one of the lower standards in the criminal justice system. Earning a conviction, especially in molestation cases, can be infinitely more difficult.

None of this should be construed as a defense of Scott Dean. His legal counsel will be responsible for that.

But Dean still is a man whose wife and family deserve to be in our prayers in what is likely the worst time of their lives.

More

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 23:31

Flood warning