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OPINION: Innocent Until Proven Guilty Must Be The Order of the Day

Whether an issue in our civics education, a purposeful attempt as a smear campaign or just a love of drama and knee-jerk reactivity. It seems that one part of our governing system continues to be missed in recent discussions which is that everyone in this country is innocent until proven guilty.

I see that resources like Court Connect, hosted by the Rhode Island judiciary, made for the sake of transparency are now being used as a 'gotcha' against both public officials and residents alike. Some are using these resources to "dig up dirt" on others. Cases are being posted without the facts of the case being clearly presented, being used to paint people as criminals when a deeper look shows charges were dropped or the person acquitted. It is forgotten, perhaps purposefully, that a charge is meaningless without a conviction.

One can look as well to the allegations against city employee Leah Stoddard, the facts of which have been nebulous and have been mischaracterized in the local news. Many have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns and while the matter, given the sensitive nature of Stoddard's position and the fact that her work computer was seized in the investigation, is a valid concern; some have taken to social media to bash and to ridicule. While there is no stopping the "court of public opinion" it is important to acknowledge that the case has not seen trial yet, let alone a verdict.

Indeed the judiciary has been manipulated at a local level as propaganda for those who have an agenda and the facts have been confused by people who do not understand our system of justice. As we see and hear the sensationalist claims of some, look behind them for why such information is being released and at the timing of the release, further look deeper into the cases themselves and ask if these are convictions or simply charges. Take a minute to also think about how you would feel if you were charged and either acquitted or later had the charges dropped, just to have someone "digging up dirt" tarnish your reputation.