May 20, 2011 -- As the director of the Business Rights Center at the fiercely pro-capitalist Atlas Society, I shall not be accused, I think, of harboring excessive sympathy for a Socialist IMF bureaucrat who stands accused of sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid. And therefore, I want to take this opportunity to protest the treatment to which Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been subjected since his arrest on May 14, 2011.
The process of hauling a suspect around in handcuffs is often called a “perp walk,” but the term “perp” is short for “perpetrator,” meaning “the perpetrator of a crime.” Thus, the term is completely inappropriate in a system that extends the presumption of innocence to suspects. It is inappropriate as a matter of terminology, and it is inappropriate as a matter of legal impartiality. Handcuffing a person who has been found guilty of a crime and then leading him away is, strictly speaking, the only “perp walk” that should exist in America. Until the jury says “guilty,” no man should be called or even thought of as “the perp.”
American governments can and should bar their own employees from needlessly exposing handcuffed subjects to the media.
Occasionally, the practice of handcuffing a suspect may be justified, for example, when the suspect is a danger to himself or to others, as explained in this excellent article on perp walks published in the National Law Journal. There was a horrible case , five or so year ago, in Georgia, in which a defendant grabbed a deputy sheriff’s gun and murdered several people before escaping. Even so, when a suspect must be handcuffed or shackled, police and court officers can attempt to minimize his exposure in that condition. American governments cannot and should not violate the media’s right to show a suspect in handcuffs, which is what France does. But American governments can and should bar their own employees from needlessly exposing handcuffed subjects to the media.
The perp walk is wrong, and therefore hauling Dominique Strauss-Kahn around, before the media, in handcuffs, was wrong.The charges against Wigton and Tabor were later dropped. Freeman pleaded guilty to making one trade after someone said, “your bunny has a good nose.”