Sir William Blackstone

A statue of legal scholar William Blackstone at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, D.C. The author of "Commentaries on the Laws of England," Blackstone wrote in 1765, "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

“'Tis much more Prudence to acquit two Persons, tho’ actually guilty, than to pass Sentence of Condemnation on one that is virtuous and innocent.”

-Voltaire, “Zadig,” 1748

***

The past seven days served as a welcome reminder for Loudouners and all Americans to remember a longstanding tenet of our legal system: the presumption of innocence.

In our social media-, flashing lights-driven culture, the American public and political talking heads are often too quick to assume guilt and ostracize before facts of a case are borne out or courtroom proceedings lay all the information on the table.

The most obvious news of the day is Special Counsel Robert Mueller's determination, released Sunday, that President Donald Trump did not collude with Russian operatives to sway the 2016 presidential election. While we insist the public should have the opportunity to see the full report, we count it a good day for the nation when a dutifully elected president can move beyond an opaque cloud of investigations and focus vigorously on what they believe is best for the country.

Indeed, Mueller said his report does not exonerate the president on the issue of obstruction of justice, but that statement alone is not reason enough to pile on resources for more probes into the president's behavior during the 2016 campaign. Investigations have been ongoing for two years. It's time to move on.

The more essential and existential matter should now be defending ourselves against a Russia and China hell-bent on disrupting our democracy, sowing discord and ultimately crippling our commonality. For anyone who was still, somehow, doubting that Russia tried to sway the outcome of the 2016 election through social media troll farms and disinformation, the Mueller report should eliminate every last scintilla of doubt.

A last word on the dealings 40 miles down the road. For Democrats hoping Mr. Mueller's findings would be the end of President Trump, stop. If a Trump presidency is too much to bear, oust him at the ballot box in 20 months.

Closer to home, on Wednesday we saw two local legal cases that will long linger in the lives of those involved.

County prosecutors dropped a charge of indecent liberties against a Loudoun County Public Schools teacher after investigators could not find sufficient evidence to further pursue the case. The teacher was accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a juvenile student.

There's no question LCPS has had – and continues to have – profoundly troubling systemic issues, but for this particular Park View High School instructor, it appears she became the target of a “bluff,” as the accuser's mother said. In this and all cases, the presumption of innocence must win the day.

In Leesburg, another odd incident unfolded: that of the Air Force service member who carried a gun into Tuscarora High School March 19. That the Airman, Mi-Allah Justice Grant, carried a sidearm into the school is not in dispute, and every Tuscarora parent should be bewildered that some school staffers apparently didn't see the harm in Grant carrying a gun around school.

On Wednesday, Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R) openly proclaimed prosecutorial discretion and said details of the case pointed to a naive 18-year-old man who felt, due to his status as a service member, he was allowed to carry a gun throughout the school. Mr. Grant's lack of awareness is unsettling, but in the end we agree with Plowman that the felony charge of carrying a firearm in a school should be dropped. We hope Grant, who is reportedly awaiting deployment to Japan, will serve our nation better in the future than he did on March 19.

Looking at the bigger picture, we hope Tuscarora High School staff members know guns aren't allowed in school. We don't think that's too much to ask.

Likewise, it shouldn't be too much to ask that everyone – the media included – remember the centuries-old axiom presuming innocence.

(5) comments

amerigirl

It would be nice if a dutifully elected president can move beyond an opaque cloud of investigations, but that isn’t going to happen especially since the Mueller Report came out. Other than the over 10 points Mueller made pointing the way to corruption charges, there are still many open investigations.
Presume nothing good when it comes to Trump.

tolerantleft

First sensible opinion coming from LTM editorial board. Wish they were this vocal from the beginning. It's time to investigate the deep state that started this fake probe.

BobOhneiserEsq

Excellent editorial. The presumption of innocence is a formally protected right. I wonder how often the community considers another presumption which exits in our schools. The presumption that privacy of an indiscretion by a student is more important than the justification of punishment or even if our schools are really safe. If we knew how often bullying and other assaultive behaviors were occurring would we be so sanguine? During 8 years on the school board I was unable to convince 4 other board members to demand complete disclosure of what transpires in our schools beyond the stuff Superintendent's like to brag about on LCPS.org. I've seen teachers fired for merely saying something to a parent at a summer get together. I've seen students who transferred high schools due to bullying be denied athletic participation due to VHSL dictates as those locker rooms never seem to be supervised. I've seen principals try to remove students from varsity squads due to missing a practice under circumstance the student could not control.(setting an example is not equal to punishment fitting the crime) I would challenge LCPS even being able to expel students under non-threatening circumstances when we have a special school (Douglas) specifically designed to handle behavioral issues. Privacy presumptions can be abused as a cover for bureaucratic decisions which have the effect on a student's life can be as hard to overcome as a guilty verdict and is done without a panel of their peers voting to condone it or not. Citizens should demand the best management practices from all our institutions that are fair, efficient and community supportive and hold those who earn a living in these institutions accountable.

DavisB

Bob, again, you are trying to turn at a situation into a political advertisement for yourself. Hey, aren't you partially responsible for what is going on at Tuscarora - you did put PBJ in charge over there?

Virginia SGP

Agree Bob. Maybe the new school board will take note.

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