Introducing New Policies
Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
I can say with honesty that I am one of the most kind and empathetic individual's a person could ever meet. A co-worker said to me one day, "Sherry, do you have a mean bone in your body at all?" My answer to that was, "Oh yes.... if someone messes with my kids!" In fact, there are two things that will put me in FIGHT mode and I become like a soldier in battle. ONE, if someone harms a member of my family, especially my children, and TWO, if something inexcusable costs me money I don't have! As a result of what happened on July 26, 2014 and going forward, I have been in fight mode ever since. My family's reputation was harmed and it also created financial hardship when we had to borrow money from family members and pull money from our retirement account to fight these accusations. If I could have reached through the computer screen at that time, I would have pulled out every strand of hair from the heads of each and every person who spread lies about my family. The anger I felt over this incident began to eat away at my soul. Once I realized that being angry wasn’t accomplishing anything or making me feel any better about the situation, that's when I made the decision to take that anger and turn it into something positive by using this unpleasant experience to help others. So it is my personal goal to launch a campaign to introduce new laws in Georgia that will help protect the privacy of the accused to some degree as long as a pending court case exists. Personally, I feel it should be illegal to post information on social media about anyone who has been arrested until that person has been found guilty in a court of law. Choosing to publicly make comments about an individual while the case is still pending in court not only violates a person's right to privacy, it also violates a person's right to a fair trial. Shouldn't we all be given the right to protect our privacy, especially online? Is it really fair to print information that leads to the spread of gossip, ultimately labeling a person guilty until proven innocent? Why do some police officers believe it's acceptable to gossip about pending court cases on social media? Doing so could also potentially jeopardize the outcome of the entire case, thereby preventing justice from being served on behalf of victims in cases where a crime actually did occur. Everyone has a Constitutional Right to have fair trial in the court of law, by an impartial tribunal, uninfluenced by social media.
Mugshots alone are enough to destroy the lives of the accused, but when social media gossip is thrown into the mix, it can cause permanent damage. This is clearly a contentious subject that carries both pros and cons. It is not my intention to fight for changes that could potentially take away our First Amendment Rights, but I would like to see some type of compromise taken into consideration, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the Internet. And about mugshots.... in a perfect world, my suggestion would be to treat those individuals in the same manner as minors who have been charged with a crime are treated; by protecting their identity until the case has been tried in court. That way, the press can still print the story without causing harm to a person’s reputation. What's more, since social media attacks can easily escalate into online bullying and harassment, it is also my hope that someday false Internet attacks are treated as a criminal act. In the meantime, we should all encourage each other to act responsibly when expressing our opinion online. Most importantly, law enforcement officers should conduct themselves as positive role models by refraining to make comments on social media when it involves a pending court case.
It doesn't take a genius to recognize that there's something
seriously wrong with this picture.
Did you know that if you are charged with a crime, you are thrown into the same classification as someone who’s been convicted of a crime? Did you know that it can obstruct future employment opportunities regardless of your innocence? Did you know that it can also rob you of your 2nd Amendment Right to legally purchase a firearm? It happened to my son. Being charged with a crime is no different than being convicted of a crime when it comes to the Internet. You are branded as one and the same, which contradicts the bedrock principle of our criminal justice system that one is “innocent until proven guilty.” Is that fair? Therefore, in the beginning, I had a fiery mission to introduce a bill that would protect the identity of those who have been arrested by banning the release of their names and mugshots until they are convicted or have plead guilty in a court of law. Then over time, I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. I never comprehended how difficult it would be to win over the understanding and compassion of others, especially those in political positions who have the power to change lives and make a difference. Most didn't seem to care since it wasn't happening to their family. After being let down by so many people I turned to for help and support, it became obvious that unless a person has gone through what my family has gone through, they would never truly understand and support my cause. So, utilizing the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, I found a different approach that I hope will achieve similar results.
For those who can, I ask that you please contact your local state law makers and ask that a bill be introduced that would protect the Constitutional Rights of the accused by enforcing training on the proper use of social media for all law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Georgia. I have attempted to make it as easy as possible by providing a direct link to the Georgia House of Representatives website to help you locate the State Representative in your District, along with their contact information. If you choose to do so, I have also included an open letter to the Georgia House of Representatives that only requires your signature. And for those who want to help, but don't want to go as far as asking for a change in legislation, there are other things you can do. You can contact your local police and sheriff departments and ask that they enforce internal policies refraining officers from participating in facebook gossip by banning them from making comments on social media regarding arrest records that have been released to the public.
I realize that this issue is controversial and some people will have mixed feelings about it, but please understand that no one is exempt from being falsely accused and slandered. The names of both my husband and son have been degraded over something that never even happened. The only way to prevent another injustice such as this from occurring is to conform the internal polices and laws to fit TODAY'S society. Remember, if you're accused of a crime you didn't commit, it's up to YOU to prove your innocence. It's up to YOU to clear your name. YOU will be responsible for cleaning up the mess. What happened to my family could happen to you too.
Everyone deserves the right to privacy.
The release of mugshots before a conviction, combined with facebook gossip is not only damaging, it’s an invasion of privacy. Some things cannot be unseen or unheard.
Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial.
Releasing information to the public about an arrest, including a person's name and mugshot, can trigger online gossip about the case, thereby jeopardizing a person's right to a fair trial.
Everyone deserves the right to be protected from Social Media attacks.
Thanks to social media, online gossip about an arrest labels a person "Guilty until proven Innocent," and online gossip can quickly escalate into online bullying.
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