Nearly 20 years ago, as a junior at Florida State, the late Dr. James White taught me and about 20 other students a valuable lesson in one of his Criminal Justice classes - a pancake has two sides to it no matter how flat it gets.
Dr. White was one of this charismatic teachers who used anecdotes to sell this theories on the law, especially when it came to guilt or innocence.
I use many of his lessons today as part of my thoughts when dealing with my family, life and writing about sports figures who get themselves tied up with the law.
This time, it concerns Jameis Winston and the huge holes that remain in a case of alleged sexual assault. I wonder how my former mentor, if he were alive today, would handle this kind of case - which on the periphery looks more like a witch hunt than anything else.
But, because it involves a major sports star - one who happens to be on the verge of a Heisman Trophy and a national title, this case in question bears some following.
Timing obviously, is the biggest factor in this matter. The timing of the release of the information, what was said, how the “victim” is working with police and the authorities to solve this matter - it all ties into a legal matter.
Whether Winston, who has appeared to be nothing but a joy for college athletics in this every impressive run to glory this season, is guilty remains to be seen.
According to what we know, Winston hasn’t been questioned, hasn’t been charged and based on stories in the Tallahassee Democrat, does not fit the description of the individual involved in an alleged dormitory incident on Dec. 7 of 2012.
But his name somehow is associated with the case and because of that - along with the timing of the materials of the case being sent to the State Attorney in Tallahassee, it bears watching by all media on the local, national, collegiate and professional levels.
According to Assistant State Attorney Georgia Cappleman, the case was not turned over to her office until Thursday of last week, which seems like an awfully long time for a case like this to remain in the hands of the Tallahassee Police Department. Also, according to Winston’s attorney, there is now a question as to whether this case was open, closed, or reopened. Does that mean there are more facts in the case that have recently come to light?
I tend to agree with Gene Frenette of the Florida-Times Union. He said in his column on Friday, “As tempting as it might be to get on a soapbox about how the Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate is either being railroaded or overly protected, the truth is everybody is guessing at not enough credible information to know the extent, if any, of Winston’s involvement.”
Unfortunately - in some cases - even without the credible evidence to exonerate Winston, Heisman voters may have already found him guilty in the court of public opinion.
Dr. White always had a few choice words for that type of judge and jury.
So for the next three weeks, Jimbo Fisher will not only have to work on keeping his players focused on a week schedule, he will also have to fight off the media ready to pounce on this story - this NON STORY. Everyone loves a good bit of drama, something to keep things interesting. But in this case, the facts in the case do not present themselves to be factual and actual - which means an innocent man could be convicted in the eyes of the law and public opinion. All that does is damage everyone’s view of right and wrong.
I am sure Dr. White would think the same thing.