Conservative Pundits are Outraged that Army Major Nidal Hasan has received approximately $278,000 since he allegedly shot dead more than a dozen Soldiers at Fort Hood more than three years ago. I wish they would reconsider their outrage, because this is what “presumption of innocence” means.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from the individual state legal codes in the sense that when you are accused of violating it, it is your employer who is going to determine your guilt. The normal criminal defendant can return to his job–or at least a job–while he awaits trial. It is not possible that a military defendant could be removed from the service before trial–for to do so would punish his pursuit of career advancement were he to be found not guilty. Furthermore, were defendants to be deprived of their livelihood while they awaited military trial by court martial, they would be deprived of their livelihood just by being accused.
To those conservatives who decry this condition, imagine this unfortunately all too plausible scenario:
A Coyote News reporter hot on the trail of a controversial secret Administration program to support rebels in a far-off land discovers classified documents that shows that those rebels are in fact terrorist affiliated and that the Department of State knew about it and still provided them with Stinger missiles. The Administration, afraid of the political fallout were the revelation to become known, charges the journalist as a co-conspirator in the leak. Were that Coyote News reporter subjected to a criminal justice system that denied him his paycheck while he awaited trial, the mere accusation of criminality could be used to subdue whistleblowers and to punish innocents.
Now sure, there is little doubt that Nidal Hasan is guilty of murdering his comrades. But we have a system that does not express guilt as shades of grey. You are or you are not guilty. And until a jury of your peers finds you guilty, you are presumed innocent.
Trust me, you do not want to live under a system where the yet-to-be-tried are considered to be mostly-guilty and are essentially treated as such. And trust me, you do not want to live under a government that has even more tools to freeze out those who speak out against it. In other words: $278,000 is a dirt cheap price for freedom.