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When someone is indicted for a crime, it's standard for newspaper reports to state that he only "allegedly" did whatever he is accused of doing. But suppose that the guilt of the defendant is extremely well confirmed (a thousand witnesses saw him, and we have an HD-quality recording of the incident). If the trial has yet to arrive at a verdict, should reporters still insist upon use of the "alleged" qualification? In other words, should standards of assertion in journalism be tied to standards of assertion in judicial proceedings?

July 3, 2011

Response from Oliver Leaman on July 7, 2011

It is often not precisely what someone did that is significant in the case of the law, but how it is classified. However many people saw him do it, the issue is often what it is that they saw

Right now I am banging away at the keys of my computer, but I could be blackmailing someone, sending a love letter, slandering a politician, or responding to a question for askphilosophers. A thousand people may be watching, and not just my cat, but in criminal law what the court will want to know is what precisely happened, not just the actions of the individuals concerned. So we should hang on to the "allegedly" term at least if the plea is a not guilty one.


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