Dominique Strauss-Kahn walked out of court Friday morning, free from his court-appointed house arrest. The court case against him, in which he is accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, is in trouble. The accuser’s attorney said so moments after the court adjourned. On the steps of the courthouse, Kenneth Thompson gave an impassioned speech declaring the district attorney Cyrus Vance “too afraid” to try the case.
In the minds of some, the accused almost instantly went from guilty to innocent, and the victim from innocent to guilty.
It was a stunning change in what many in the United States saw as closed case, after forensic tests had found what authorities said was evidence of a sexual encounter and prosecutors said the victim “offered a compelling and unwavering story.”
“I was ‘sure’ D.S.K. was guilty, and I argued with my French friends about it,” Judith Thurman writes at the New Yorker. “I was proud of the New York Police Department and prosecutor’s office for standing with a poor, powerless woman against a rich, powerful man.”
On Thursday, all that changed when the New York Times broke the story that the case was on shaky ground. The maid, who the Times had just portrayed two weeks ago as “an unassuming and hard-working single mother,” was now accused of ties to a drug trafficker.
Strauss-Kahn went from accused criminal to potential presidential candidate overnight.
At the same time the Strauss-Kahn affair played out on CNN, Fox News spent its broadcast time on Casey Anthony, the accused murderer of her own daughter. In a case that’s gripped the country like no other since O.J. Simpson’s trial, Anthony’s innocence has been brushed off by television commentators, television viewers and reality stars alike — regardless of the fact that the trail has not yet closed.
Though Simpson was found not guilty, his guilt is now such a common belief that when the Daily Mail incorrectly reported that he would finally admit to killing his wife nearly 18 years later on Oprah’s couch, the rumor went viral — no matter the fact that it was false.
It seems presumed innocence has been lost in the media frenzy. Or does the chatter outside the courtroom matter at all? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.