Letters to the Editor

Try the case in court, not online | Editorial

We are concerned by online reader comments that have been posted in response to stories about the Lopez Island teen charged with vehicular homicide and assault in the death of a jogger and the injury of two other people.

Some comments report hearsay as evidence. Most if not all comments have tried and convicted him. Characterizations are harsh.

Emotions are understandable and opinions are inevitable: A man is dead, a little girl lost part of a finger, another teen is recovering from serious injuries.

But we must not forget: We have a justice system. Each of us has a constitutionally protected right to a fair trial. Each of us, when accused of a crime, is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Facts will be presented, testimony will be given, and all evidence will be weighed at a public trial.

In other words: A person accused of a crime must be proven guilty in a court of law, not proven guilty in the court of public opinion. (The court of online comment, where no name is required to post a comment, reminds us of the “Wild West” justice system, where an accused might be hanged before trial or a prisoner executed on the spot rather than endure the travel to some far-flung town with a jail.)

The ability to post comments regarding stories is a powerful communication tool that can foster dialogue on issues of the day. But we should use that communication tool responsibly, and not in a manner that can jeopardize the community’s ability to fairly try someone accused of a crime.

We do agree with one online commenter: “Have faith that our justice system (such as it is) will do as it’s designed to do.”

Indeed. Let justice take its course.

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