As our experienced South Florida criminal defense attorneys know, and as evidenced in particular by the recent conclusion of an ongoing criminal matter in Plantation, allegations that someone has committed a crime should not be understood as an implication that such a person is guilty of having committed a crime.
Our judicial system is predicated in part on the notion that accused persons are inherently innocent until proven guilty in front of a jury of their peers. Until they have been formally charged, prosecuted and have a had a chance to defend themselves in a court of law, they are not to be regarded as guilty, for guilt is a legal determination that can only be reached by a court of law.
Just over a week ago, law enforcement officials in Plantation announced that they would not prosecute a battery charge against a man who’d they been planning on taking to court. Here’s the twist: it’s not just that the local authorities could not gather enough evidence against the man sufficient to yield a conviction — the alleged victim of the crime actually recanted her accusation, thereby pulling the rug out from under the criminal investigation and shedding light on an ugly problem in society, namely the treatment of the accused as if they were guilty.
A 52-year-old Plantation man was arrested in January after his elderly mother told authorities that he had assaulted her. According to a complaint affidavit, her son wanted money for medication, and when she could not find her purse, he shook her, grabbed her neck, and threw her on a table. If these allegations were true, the 52-year-old might very well have been successfully charged with battery. When he was arrested, the man had harsh words for his mother and said that she had been chasing him around with a gun. While the mother denied that she had a gun, he denied any wrongdoing and he entered a not guilty plea.
According to a recent Sun Sentinel article, Assistant State Attorney Victoria Watson ultimately stated that “the state is unable to prove this case without the testimony of the victim.” But it isn’t just that the supposed victim decided against testifying in court.
According to Watson’s closing memo regarding the conclusion of this matter, there were no other witnesses, the man never admitted to choking his mother, and there were no visible injuries on the supposed victim that would indicate that foul play as described above took place. As if all of these facts were not enough to cast doubt on the guilt of this man, the alleged victim recanted her allegations, claiming that her son did not touch her and he did not throw her on a table.
This story should serve as a clear reminder that despite seemingly horrific allegations, people should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For whatever reason, individuals often concoct stories and make false accusations; these false reports are not just illegal, but they are damaging to the reputation and livelihood of the people they target.