May 27, 2013 - EDITORIAL: THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT (Geo Mounsef's case)

The cavalcade of cars at Saturday’s Justice for Geo demonstration downtown did not come close to reflecting the depth of public dismay the case has generated in Edmonton.

There are moments in life when something so dreadful and random occurs that whole communities are filled with frustration and a feeling of helplessness. Oscar Wilde wrote that the greatest tragedies are those that hurt us with their absolute incoherence and absurd want of meaning, and surely the death of Geo Mounsef a week ago qualifies on all counts.

But just as tragedies often pull communities together and bring out the best in people, they can bring out the worst as well. It’s precisely for that reason that the presumption of innocence is so fundamental to our justice system.

Since two-year-old Geo was killed May 19 after an SUV rammed through the glass partition on the patio at the Terwillegar Ric’s Grill, pinning him against the wall, the child’s family and supporters, including a sometimes hostile online constituency, have been highly vocal in lashing out at the court system and the man accused in the boy’s death. Richard Suter has been charged with several impaired driving-related charges in connection with Geo’s death.

In coffee shops and over innumerable backyard fences, Edmontonians have been talking about the tragedy, some of them expressing indignation gusting to rage over the fact that Suter was granted bail, over the relative severity of penalties that he could face, as well as other aspects of his case.

It’s important to remember that Suter has been convicted of nothing and, like everyone, deserves the right to due process, a right that includes the opportunity to make his case in a court of law.

Geo’s mother, Sage Morin, is actively lobbying for tougher sentencing in drunk driving cases, including a mandatory minimum sentence in cases of impaired driving causing death. The public’s anger over the toll of deaths caused by the callous behaviour of drunk drivers is entirely justified. But if there are flaws in our justice system, the presumption-of-innocence principle is not one of them.

Any denial of due process, however well-intentioned or motivated by genuine, aching grief, undermines a free society. It is precisely in horrendous cases such as this, tragedies that call on us to somehow make sense out of the senseless, that the importance of those safeguards come so clearly into focus.

Source: Edmonton Journal



Last updated on: 2013-05-29 | Link to this post