presumed  guilty
a poem by  
  keith  o'connor
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Ottawa Citizen: 2001, aug 25: Jamie Nelson spent forty two months in a federal prison for a crime he did not commit. He is not the only one who wound up behind bars because police took "vindictive" complainant Cathy Fordham at her word. 

Mr. Nelson and other's like him had previous encounters with the law which made them less believable than Ms. Fordham,  who had no previous record.

presumed guilty 

you raped me 
you are lying 
you raped me 
how can we know 
the truth 
in these words 
she says - he raped me 
he says - she lies 
I did not rape her 
the printed words 
should have the same value 
if you interpret a woman's word 
differently than a man's word 
then to you 
they do not have the same value 
if certain words contain 
a horrific emotional value 
such that you believe only a truthful 
person would ever say them 
then the speaker of those words 
may be favored 
if the words are spoken 
in a court room 
or on a televised interview 
we can become confused 
both testimonials 
can contain the appearance of truth 
how do we know 
the truth 
hiding behind the lies 
how do we know 
the lies 
hiding behind the truth 

we look for body language 
little glances - that do not 
harmonize with the spoken words 
tone of voice - that does not 
harmonize with the spoken words 
we look for believability 
that illusive perfume of believability 
what of the liar 
that looks believable 
the liar that has - that 
illusive perfume of believability 
what of the truth sayer 
who looks guilty 
has no perfume of believability 
do we consider evidence 
evidence that contradicts 
the perfume of believability 
out with the evidence 
evidence can be wrong 
witnesses can lie 
vote your belief 
believe in your ability 
to smell believability 
the list is long 
the list you smelled guilty 
has been proven wrong 
the guilty are innocent 
and the innocent are guilty 
and you go on 
and on 
to smell again 
and again 

Keith  O'Connor 
Ottawa  Canada 
2001   aug  25 


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