Jameis Winston’s Trial In The Court of Public Opinion Is Already Underway


Florida State’s path to the BCS championship is laden with cupcakes on the schedule, however, on Wednesday, off-field complications fogged up their future. On Wednesday, we were bombarded with revelations about the investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Jameis Winston made by a young woman last December.

Winston hasn’t been charged, but in the court of bloviating and public opinion, everybody is as adamant about their opinions being fact as Nancy Grace. The biggest criticism of Winston thus far have been his reluctance to discuss the case with the media.

Although, A-Rod is proof that innocent people don’t always exercise their right to silence, Winston's taciturnity has been confused with tacit assumptions of guilt. It’s also unfair to question the silence of a criminal investigation’s target while the accuser stopped cooperating over eight months ago. Neither one’s silence is an implication of guilt or a false accusation, but it’s a bit of a double-standard in our societal standards of innocent until proven guilty.

On Wednesday night, the latest domino fell in a slowly developing chain reaction when information leaked that Florida Law Enforcement found Winston’s DNA from a sexual assault kit taken on Dec. 7, 2012 inside of his accuser’s underwear.

That is evidence that there was some sort of personal relationship between himself and the accuser. It’s far from providing proof of his guilt. However, it does further advance the theory that this was not a case of mistaken identity as many believed it was when it was initially reported that she described her attacker as being between 5-11 and 5-9.

Those initial reports cast doubt about the accuser’s credibility because Winston is a 6-4 quarterback. We now know that he is the person of interest. On Thursday morning, Winston’s attorney Tim Jansen confirmed that there was consensual sex between the two.

"I don't think it's a secret what the defense is when I tell you that we are not surprised his DNA was found," Jansen said during a news conference. "We anticipated it would be found. We never, ever said he wasn't there."

However, the allegations levied against the Tallahassee Police Department are disturbing as well.

In a case of “he-said, she-said,” the truth isn't always the deciding factor; it’s about what you can prove to a jury. In the judicial system, Jansen is the offensive coordinator. Winston’s job is to stay disciplined and execute the game plan. His legal standing takes precedence over appeasing Heisman voters.

Spouting off in the media can come off as insensitive, taint a potential jury pool or twist public opinion against you. More importantly, it can also be used against you in a court of law.

On Wednesday, the family of the accuser also released a harshly-worded statement to the Tampa Bay Times which eviscerated the Tallahassee police detective who warned the accuser that she would be “raked over the coals" if she proceeded with the case. That’s what’s being reported in the media, but the entire statement adds more context.

"When the attorney contacted Detective (Scott) Angulo immediately after Winston was identified, Detective Angulo told the attorney that Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable," the family said.

There are two ways to view that warning: this was either an example of a detective’s veiled threat or he was telling her what to honestly expect if she moved forward with the case. Whether or not you believe the investigating detective should simply concern himself with taking statements or supporting the alleged victim, what he said is true.

Football fanaticism has transformed certain segments of our country into blood-thirsty sycophants. The Steubenville rape trial involving two high school football players invoked themes of slut-shaming as the town closed ranks around its football team. Now take Steubenville and douse it with leaded gasoline in the form of one of the most renowned college football programs in the nation on its trek back to the top of the college football mountain.

Now light the match with the most talented freshman to walk a college campus since Adrian Peterson. Then, remind yourself that we’re talking about the state of Florida’s dysfunctional legal system and it’s unimaginable how much scrutiny she may face. Remember how Kobe Bryant’s accuser had her reputation and dirty laundry aired out for the world to see? The difference is that unlike Bryant, who played in the NBA Finals while facing felony charges, under Florida State rules if Winston were charged he'd be ineligible to play for Florida State for the rest of the season. Sometime in the next week and a half, State Attorney Willie Meggs will decide whether or not to do just that.

High-profile cases aren’t just difficult on the accuser, but they are tough on their family, friends and the accused. All speculation aside, here’s what has to be made clear: The vigilant interference of a detective on the TPD does not reflect Winston’s guilt.

For every Steubenville, there is a Brian Banks. None of us know which this is. Not even Nancy Grace.