In light of the state attorney general's recent, successful arguments against paying Gyronne Buckley the $460,000 that the Arkansas State Claims Commission said Buckley deserved because he'd spent more than 11 years in prison due to a conviction obtained by bad behavior on the part of state officials, we think an exercise parsing Dustin McDaniel's logic may help him think a bit straighter.
1. As you have never been convicted of a crime, when you get out of bed in the morning, are you guilty?
Careful. We know you're our state's top prosecutor and that "could be" jumps right to mind. But remember you represent the law and this is a legal question. We suggest "no" for the right answer.
2. If a police officer looks at you but concludes you've done nothing wrong, did you get off on a "technicality"?
Slippery question, we know. Hint: the answer is "no."
3. If you are arrested, are you guilty?
Let's pretend you say "no," just 'cuz you went to law school.
4. If you are charged with a crime, are you guilty?
Despite that autonomic response, we're going to credit you with a "no" in hopes you recall hearing something about "innocent until proven guilty."
5. If the prosecutor drops the charge against you, are you guilty?
Now we're getting tricky. In your prosecutor's gut you probably figure you sure as hell are. But, darn it, sometimes the evidence to prove guilt just isn't there. That said, we're hoping that some part of you above your gut realizes that, again, the legal answer is "no."
6. If, instead, you go to trial and a jury finds you not guilty, are you guilty?
C'mon. "Probably" is not a choice. We have a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down system. So which is it? You can do it, Dustin. Suck it up. Go with the jury. Say "no."
7. If a jury finds you guilty, but a court later rules that your trial was unfair and orders a new trial for you, are you guilty?
Whoa! Now we're really pushing the limits of legal nuance. Let's see. How might you look at this? You can still be charged and held in jail while awaiting this new trial, so that looks pretty guilty. But wait. That old verdict has been vacated, and you haven't been tried again yet ... So that means you haven't been proven guilty yet ... So that means ... No. (Amazing, isn't it?)
8. If the prosecutor drops the charges instead of pursuing a second trial and sets you free, are you guilty?
Breathe, Dustin. Think hard from that place above your gut. Try to answer as a legal professional. Remember: "could be" is not a choice. And neither is: "That does not make me innocent." So let's try that one again.
8. If you are charged with a crime but never brought to trial — thus never proven guilty — are you guilty?
It's pretty simple, isn't it? You are innocent until proven guilty, which you have not been, so, legally speaking, you are not guilty. Wow!
But this raises a few more questions:
What if federal prosecutors charged you, Dustin McDaniel, with all kinds of awfulness? What if they won their case and got you imprisoned for years? What if you fought and managed to get your conviction overturned? And then, what if the feds decided that, on second thought, they really didn't have the evidence to convict you again — maybe really hadn't had it in the first place? Might you still feel you'd been harmed?
Confusing, isn't it? Having just won the legal fight of your life and gotten yourself out of prison, we'd understand if you felt you'd been pretty darn wronged. You might even be tempted to seek compensation.
But, after all your rants about Buckley, we figure you wouldn't. Instead, you'd go out of your way to remind us that you'd only gotten out on a technicality and that just because the feds let you go, we shouldn't consider you innocent.
And we imagine you'd talk yourself right out of any lawsuit seeking compensation for those years you lost in prison. Nah. We expect you'd tell us, "I sure don't deserve some big financial windfall, seeing as how I'm un-innocent."