Marshall: Vick Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Phillip Marshall takes aim at the Michael Vick situation and due process.

It's so easy to despise Michael Vick these days.

It's so easy to read the federal indictment handed down against him in Virginia and be repulsed.

It's so easy to proclaim that he should be banished forever from the National Football League.

It's so easy to call him a thug.

But I have this problem: I really do believe in what is supposed to be the cornerstone of American justice – the presumption of innocence. I really do believe that even one as famous as Michael Vick deserves his day in court, that it is possible, though seemingly not likely, that the charges against him could unravel.

It happens. Dozens of men have been released from death row because DNA evidence proved they couldn't have committed the crimes of which they were convicted. How many innocent people died in electric chairs and at the ends of nooses before the modern marvel of DNA testing? For every O.J. Simpson, who many believe beat the system with his wealth and fame, there are untold numbers of innocent people rotting away in prison because they couldn't afford competent legal representation.

And we all know the outcome of the recent Duke lacrosse case.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be accused, your freedom or your life put on the line, and know you are innocent. Maybe I'm idealistic, but I much more troubled by innocent people being convicted than I am by guilty people walking free. And I think the former happens a lot more often than the latter.

But I digress. The issue today is Michael Vick. He certainly can afford the best legal representation available. If he's not guilty, he'll have the resources to prove it if it can be proved. Punishment should be reserved for when and if the time comes that the federal government proves him guilty.

Vick's image is sure to suffer whether he's guilty or innocent.

The NFL isn't going to suspend Vick. The whole mess has been left in the lap of Falcons owner Arthur Blank. All indications are that Vick will play, though that could still change.

Vick has been convicted of nothing. What if he is suspended, his right to earn a living taken away, and it turns out he really didn't know anything about what was happening on his property? What if he is suspended and a jury eventually says he's not guilty? What if he is suspended and it turns out a federal prosecutor, blinded by Vick's fame, rushed to judgment?

I'll be the first to admit that, based on the indictment, there seems to be a lot of evidence that Vick is anything but innocent. If what is alleged is true, it's frightening to believe one who has been so blessed could be so sadistic and cruel. If Vick is convicted, he should be treated no better or no worse than anyone else convicted of similar crimes.

For now, he's been charged but not convicted.

For now, he's innocent. That's what separates us, what makes us different, what makes our system better.

Blank can feed the hungry mob and suspend his star quarterback or he can take a deep breath, do the right thing and let the legal system run its course.

Until that happens, Vick should play. It's the right thing. It's the American thing.

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More copies of Phillip's book, "The Auburn Experience," have become available for purchase at a reduced price. An oversized coffee table book published in December 2004, the book features more than 300 slick pages of stories and photographs of many of Auburn's greatest traditions, teams, players and coaches in every sport. Originally selling for $69, it is available now for just $20, plus $5 shipping and handling. For orders of multiple books, there will be just one $5 charge for shipping and handling. Send check or money order made payable to Phillip Marshall to The Auburn Experience, P.O. Box 968, Auburn, AL 36831.

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