It very well may come to pass that Donald Trump will go on trial for at least one of the many things he’s being criminally investigated for. If that should happen you can expect certain results. One result is that Trump’s trial will almost certainly be billed as the “Trial of the Century.” I’m okay with that. The last time that moniker was applied to an American criminal proceeding was with the trial of OJ Simpson and, deservedly or not, it inspired a year-long media obsession. When people think of the trial of the twentieth century they usually think of the Simpson trial.
Another result will probably be that a certain kind of person, usually (though not always) a Trump supporter, will obsessively and truculently insist that Donald Trump is to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, and you are forbidden to say otherwise under penalty of law. Failure to do so will result in your imminent arrest. I am not okay with that. I will tell you why.
The notion that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, more technically referred to as the “presumption of innocence,” is a restatement of the principle of the burden of proof. It is a principle that is deeply enshrined in European and American common law, and rightly so.
Presumption of innocence is the notion that the burden of proof of the guilt of an individual defendant rests exclusively with the prosecution and no one else. Should the prosecution fail to meet that burden beyond a reasonable doubt in the eyes of the jury, it is incumbent upon that jury to find the defendant not guilty. Technically speaking, juries do not find defendants innocent. They find them guilty or not guilty. Innocence is not a thing that is ever conferred on a defendant by a court of law. Only guilt is, or its absence.
All of which is to say, the presumption of innocence is a principle that operates inside a courtroom and is practiced by officers of the court and the jury. We civilians are exempt from the necessity of practicing it and we may presume whatever we like. I, for one, plan to vigorously apply the presumption of guilt on Donald Trump, because guilty is what he is.
To be sure, members of the print media need to be careful to avoid potential civil litigation or the appearance of impropriety. I certainly will apply whatever circumspection that requires. But editorially I’m going to let Trump have it right between the eyeballs.
Should Trump be found not guilty by a jury of his peers, I plan to reject that finding. Again, that is my right and that right is enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. For example, even though OJ Simpson was found not guilty by 12 morons in 1994, I reject that finding. Simpson is a red-handed murderer of two innocent people. Period. End of story. There exists no mechanism, legal or moral, that can induce me to say otherwise.
Another reason why I will be rejecting the principle of innocent until proven guilty, as it may be applied to Donald Trump, is because it will really infuriate the drooling MAGA cretins. The “lock her up” and “F” your feelings crowd are going to be full of excruciating, throbbing agony over the very idea of their hero being put on trial for treason or espionage or tax evasion or money laundering, or any of the numerous crimes he’s guilty of. I want to provoke that agony. I’ve had to endure six years of their smugness while their hero seemed to get away with it. Now it will be my turn to gloat. And he who laughs last, as they say, laughs best.
Of course, Donald Trump’s trial might turn into a series of criminal trials. At that point they could be styled as the “Trials of the Century,” and they will go on for as long as his self-abused body holds out.
Whichever it proves to be, I plan to enjoy myself at the expense of the MAGA set. And if Trump is found guilty I will particularly enjoy his retreat into obscurity, which is the inevitable result of any criminal who goes to prison, no matter how much fame that criminal enjoyed before. Because nothing will bother Donald Trump more than obscurity, and I plan to dine out on his discomfort for a very, very long time. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.