Chris Powell: Due process under attack in Connecticut

Liberalism in Connecticut used to stand for due process of law, but not anymore.

Increasingly liberalism in Connecticut stands instead for mere political correctness, as signified by two liberal causes advancing through the General Assembly.

The first is legislation to require colleges to expel male students who can’t prove themselves innocent of non-criminal accusations of sexual assault made by female students -- can’t prove that their sexual relations were entirely consensual. This is being called "affirmative consent." Under "affirmative consent" such innocence is unlikely to be proved without sworn and notarized receipts from the sexual partner or comprehensive video-recording.

The legislation arises from the difficulty in proving sexual assault in the college environment, clouded as it is by youthful recklessness, drug and alcohol intoxication, and childish jealousy. In such an environment there are many rapes but little proof, usually only contradictory assertions that can’t be verified. As a result police seldom can document and prosecutors prove criminal charges in court.

Hence the clamor from the women’s side to discard requirements for proof and settle for guilt by accusation. If men can’t be criminally convicted in court with due process of law and proof beyond reasonable doubt, at least they can be thrown out of college with a record that will impair them for the rest of their lives.

Of course some men may deserve this, but others may not, as there are always false or exaggerated accusations. Further, without due process the public’s understanding of justice will be greatly diminished.

If the "affirmative consent" legislation is enacted, it will warn men that they have no defense against sexual-assault accusations on campus and that they engage in sex there at great peril. This is exactly what women on campus should be told -- that many men, even seemingly nice ones, are actually predators, especially during their college years, and that all men must be regarded with great caution before establishing an intimate relationship.

The law is about to discard due process on campus because women students have been told all this, have been warned about their vulnerability, but refuse to heed the warning, their refusal having been encouraged by irresponsible complaints that to warn them constitutes "blaming the victim."

So now due process is to be blamed instead.

Discarded on campus, due process will be more at risk elsewhere, as Connecticut’s liberals also are striving to discard it amid accusations of domestic abuse or violence. Their legislation in that respect would authorize police, before any hearing in court, to confiscate guns owned by anyone against whom a court issues a temporary restraining order. That is, there would be punishment before not just trial and conviction but even before a hearing.

Advocates of the legislation cite the 2014 murder of a woman in Oxford by her husband, who was the subject of a court order to stay away from her and to surrender his guns. He disobeyed the order, but the pending legislation would not have made any difference.

For men resolved to harm their wives or girlfriends will not be deterred by mere court orders. They will be deterred only by swift prosecution and police protection for those they threaten.

But swift prosecution and police protection would cost money, and even the advocates of punishment before conviction in domestic abuse cases don’t want to spend it. By discarding due process instead, they can strike their PC poses for free.

Insisting on due process always puts one at risk of getting called names -- "misogynist" may be the one hurled here -- but even Connecticut liberals once had the courage to quote the late Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter’s remark that "the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people."

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer,  in Manchester, Conn.