Judge Not, but Judge Carefully

by Brendan Wolfe

Albert, I'm happy to defer to a lawyer. My point, though, is merely this: courts do not make metaphysical proclamations concerning people's innocence. There is what can be proved and what can't be proved, and the burden of proof is on the state. That is what is meant by presumption of innocence. But to be accused, charged, and acquitted, or to be accused, charged, and found guilty -- this says nothing about whether you did it; it speaks only to what was proved.

It says volumes about your approach to Bix Beiderbecke's life that you declare as "fact" -- and "not only in a legal sense" -- what you cannot possibly know. It taints every argument you could ever possibly make about the arrest. After all, you've already made up your mind. If I misunderstand you here, please let me know.

Certainly, I understand how accusations can "stick," and as responsible citizens we shouldn't go around assuming facts we don't know to be true. It's always a neighborly policy to give people the benefit of the doubt. But absent actually knowing one way or the other, I think it's also neighborly not to accuse people of throwing mud or to attack their motivations.

This is not to say that you can't look into the facts. By all means! But for someone who accused Ted Gioia of loading the dice, you should think about whether you can approach such an investigation in good faith. You might ask yourself, and then out of courtesy disclose to your readers, what you are: an historian, a biographer, a fan, a PR agent, what? Historians and biographers don't assume they know to be true things they don't, in fact, know to be true.

Anyway, I had not seen the message you linked to. It's remarkable. You respond by asking how it is possible for a five-year-old girl who is visually impaired to be a mile away from home. By home, I assume you mean on Iowa Street. That reminds me of a confusing bit of information in Rich Johnson's book that perhaps you are able to clarify for me. On page 441, he writes that Preston Ivens's "wife and three children -- two boys, ages ten and nine, and a five-year-old daughter -- lived on Iowa Street while Ivens lived on Grand Avenue, several blocks north of the Beiderbeckes."

The two different residences is never explained. I presume that the Grand Avenue home is closer to where the incident is said to have happened, but I don't know that. Do you? Wouldn't it have been possible for her to be at her dads house?

Posted on Dec 24, 2009, 10:24 AM

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