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Thursday November 16, 2000

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Employee charged with murder has rights too

By The Arizona Daily Wildcat Opinions Board

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a rule that's hard to justify in many people's minds-especially when the person under question could be guilty of murder.

But the constitutional provision is one that needs to be observed. And as much controversy as it may foment to allow Ralph David McCormick, a man suspected of murdering his wife, to continue his job as UA Facilities Management Office Specialist, it is his civil right to do so.

McCormick's wife was murdered in August. Her attacker beat her to death with a baseball bat, and then burned her.

McCormick has no prior record of any kind of criminal offense. He will probably be released on bail, since last week Pima County Superior Court Judge Leslie Miller reduced his bond from $1 million to $250,000. McCormick owns that amount in property value.

If he is releaseed on bail, he will undoubtedly face pressure when he tries to return to work.

But, as UA spokeswoman Sharon Kha pointed out, "He's still employed."

The only reason McCormick would not be able to return to work is if he is found to be a "danger to (himself) and others."

This has yet to be determined by UA human resources officials.

The University will now move forth with considerations of whether or not McCormick deserves to return to work. Some will argue against allowing him to return, claiming that even a suspect of such a violent crime could pose a threat to the university community.

But hopefully UA officials who are given the responsibility of deciding McCormick's fate will recognize that McCormick is still only a suspect, and that it is his right to be able to continue with his career as long as legal rulings are pending.

News of any kind of violent crime is always alarming, and it seems to be people's natural reaction to incriminate even "alleged" criminals before evidence has proven them guilty. McCormick's wife tragic death is particularly gruesome and saddening. The crime's emotional impact may dictate how people perceive McCormick. But when determining McCormick's fate, it is important to consider only the legal realities.

And the reality right now is that McCormick has merely been charged. It is simply the right of all American citizens to be able to continue with their normal lives despite criminal charges.

If these charges are proven to be true, McCormick will be thrown out of the UA and into prison.

But they have yet to be proven.

Innocent until proven guilty is the basis of the American criminal justice system, and it ought to be observed.

As pointed out by McCormick's attorney, Michael Piccaretta, McCormick rightfully deserves to return to work.

"It's uncertain what the future holds (for McCormick)," Piccaretta told the Wildcat earlier this week. "But if people are upset, they should be upset with the constitution."