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Rush To Judgment

Helmreich-012513

But they were silent. Why? One possible explanation is that Weberman and the two educators referred to above are not fashionable darlings of civil rights activists. Men associated with insular, conservative and male-dominated institutions – be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim – are just not the types that due process advocates rush to embrace.

Moreover, Orthodox institutions can be tempting targets to some Jewish newspapers, in particular, for yet another reason: they seem powerful, while in reality they pose almost no threat to the publications that expose them, largely because they lie outside the mainstream Jewish establishment that has close ties to Jewish communal newspapers. With such targets, an investigative reporter can present himself deceptively as a dragon slayer while remaining, as it were, completely fireproof.

Of course, not every journalist will destroy someone with such chilling trigger-happiness. But it remains a distinct possibility, as long as sex abuse coverage is a safe haven against evidentiary standards. The two Orthodox educators may have been the targets of the day. And for all we know, they could well be guilty. But under the new “one-source-and-you’re-it” standard of proof, the innocent will sooner or later suffer the same fate.

About the Author: Jeff Helmreich, a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, is author of a forthcoming study titled “Reasonable Doubts and Doubtable Reasons: Where Jury Instructions Go Wrong.” This article originally appeared, in somewhat different form, in The Long Island Jewish World.


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Helmreich-012513

This much we know: as soon as the story broke last month that a former teacher at a well-known Jewish educational institution stood accused of abusing students there decades ago, the teacher’s life changed forever. His employers saw it (he was immediately suspended from his current job), his friends, family and associates would soon learn of it, and anyone who searches the web could now forever find it. His fate was sealed.

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