The question in the title is not being asked by many people these days, even though the popular former CBC Radio host was acquitted this week of sexual assault charges (hitting them, not rape) against three women — acquitted by a judge who found the testimony of the complainants to be contradictory, elusive, dishonest and in at least one case, as close to perjury as you can get.

The consensus in the legal community is, the judge made the right decision. The Crown (the prosecution) failed to make a convincing case and there simply wasn’t proof that Ghomeshi committed the alleged acts. That’s the way the legal system is supposed to work: guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and it just didn’t happen here. Au contraire, it seemed like some spurned women colluded in a personal vendetta against Ghomeshi — and we may not have heard the end of it all yet, if Ghomeshi decides to sue the complainants.

Still, many in the court of public opinion — including some media — are decrying the judge’s decision as an injustice and a failure of the legal system. They wanted to see Ghomeshi convicted, and they feel he got away with something, that a patriarchal justice system favoured the man in this case. Some seem to be suggesting that if a woman makes a sexual assault accusation, she must be believed without reservation and the accused should be presumed guilty from the outset.

Certainly, Ghomeshi was convicted by the court of public opinion long before the case came to trial. And he is still being convicted by the public and some in the media, with few, if any, asking the question in the title of this post.

Could Ghomeshi actually be innocent? Were the acts of which he was accused part of consensual BDSM-style sex, which only later the female participants — after having been jilted by Ghomeshi — decided to use against him in court as a way to get back at him? Did all of the alleged acts actually occur at all?

The questions, or ones like it, have to be asked in a fair trial. But few in the court of public opinion are asking those types of questions. They believed the alleged victims, and they still do, even though an impartial judge found more than enough reasonable doubt in their testimony. (Ghomeshi did not take the stand, as his right.)

But how many of those now convicting Ghomeshi on social media and such would be willing to make their accusations public in such a way that they could be challenged in a court of law? It’s easy to spout off about things on Twitter when you feel you can say anything you like without consequences. It’s easy to slander people and defame them in such apparent lawless arenas — for now.

I’m doubting that few of the people convicting Ghomeshi now would do so if they thought they might be sued, because they just don’t have the evidence to back up their claims.

So, the troubling part of all this is that they wanted blood, whether he was guilty or not. They wanted a lynching, and by god, they are having one now — even if Ghomeshi has been acquitted.

File this under: Mob violence, Twitter style.

— Jillian