Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eric Fassin on the DSK Affair

He and I plainly disagree. Here is Eric:

L’abandon des charges contre Dominique Strauss-Kahn confirme une vérité indéniable : aux Etats-Unis, la logique d’un procureur est d’abord politique. Dans cette affaire, il poursuivait sans pitié tant qu’il comptait gagner gros ; dès lors qu’il estime n’avoir qu’à y perdre, il renonce sans états d’âme.


The concept of "beyond a reasonable doubt" seems not to make an impression even on the most brilliant and best-informed French observers of the United States, of whom Eric is surely one. In my view, Vance dropped the case not because he feared losing it but because he believed that going to court with a witness about whose testimony he had developed "reasonable doubts" would have been an abuse of prosecutorial power. However unlikely, he might have won such a case by carefully selecting a jury and playing to its prejudices (against a Frenchman, a wealthy banker, etc.). But such a victory would have been unconscionable.


UPDATE: Meanwhile, even noted feminist columnist Katha Pollitt reluctantly concedes she would have been forced to vote for acquittal had she been a juror.

5 comments:

David A. Bell said...

Quite a classic misunderstanding. Eric seems to think that Vance was basically in charge and on top of everything all the way, deliberately orchestrating all the details of everything from the initial arrest, through the perp walk, to the final debacle. Yet it seems clear to me that at many points, Vance felt swept away by the tide of events, and was simply struggling to keep his head up and do the right thing.

Robert said...

Art, I'm afraid I'd rather side with Fassin on this one. To put it another way: Did Vance believe it was worth going through considerable time and effort (and taxpayer money) pursusing a very unlikely victory against a top defense attorney? He can't have come to this decision without weighing the odds.

Now, you could argue, mind you, that use (abuse?) of taxpayer money is an abuse of power....

Dick Sindall said...

Art, I think your interpretation is valuable, not because it is necessarily correct with regard to Vance's motives, but because it grants him the benefit of the doubt, a form of innocence where "guilt" cannot be proved. Is he afraid of losing because of concern for his own career or unwilling to push to court with an insufficient case for reasons you have suggested? Or some of each? Since I can't read minds even in person and don't know the man behind the news reports, I'll go with your reasonable explanation of his decision.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Sure, Vance doesn't want to lose, but those who accuse him of being a purely political animal are inconsistent. He could score political points by prosecuting and losing. He was under pressure from several constituencies to do just that. But he wouldn't, because he had lost confidence in his witness. He may still believe that "on the whole" she was right, but the reasonable doubt standard is more exigent than the "preponderance of the evidence" standard that we use in civil cases.

Mary Campbell Gallagher, J.D., Ph.D. said...

Winning is not the only thing. An attorney who believes his client is going to perjure himself or herself on the witness stand is obliged to withdraw from the case.

If the complaining witness in this case gave conflicting accounts of key facts, and if she would do so again at trial, Mr. Thompson's remaining on the case may need explaining.