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May 18th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #849 'Looking like a criminal'

Reporter's Note: President Obama has talked a lot about change. My letter today is about one possible change we might take from the French. Who knew?

Dear Mr. President,

I have been going easy on the caffeine lately and it has been quite an experience. After a couple of days of crazy headaches, I now feel as if I am emerging from the fog of too much chemical alertness, and it feels good. Not sure how it will last, mind you. The news biz has been fueled by caffeine for a long time, so I’m not entirely betting on my ability to keep it at bay, but we’ll see. This is the time of year when I am routinely tired anyway, because I tend to like the Western Conference in the hockey playoffs and their games can start pretty late.

Speaking of rough games, have you been following the story of the International Monetary Fund boss accused of sexual assault up in New York? He is from France, as I am sure you know, and I read something interesting today about the French justice system: They don’t show people on TV in handcuffs and standing in court when they are merely charged with a crime. They worry that such a practice taints the presumption of innocence.

That makes sense. After all, if you put someone in an orange jump suit and shackles, and march them past the cameras they pretty much look like a criminal whether they are or not. And many people will hold onto that first impression for years without bothering to find out if the person in cuffs actually wound up convicted. Worse yet, they will assume if he wasn’t kept in the old Iron Bar Hilton somehow the court system must have failed.

While I don’t like the idea of restricting the press, I’ve been around the block enough to know that we have restrictions anyway. Every place that we can not take cameras, such as the Supreme Court for example, we are experiencing a type of censorship. So with that caveat, I don’t think I would be terribly upset if we decided it was wrong to show mere “suspects” in a crime; but rather, that we would have to wait until they were convicted.

Maybe that’s something you can work on, when you finish with the whole debt ceiling mess, immigration reform, and . . . oh yes . . . the rest of the hockey playoffs.

If you want to come over for a game give me a call. Otherwise, don’t call during the game. You know I’ll be too worked up to talk. Ha!

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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