When the first images of a rumpled and handcuffed Dominique Strauss-Kahn scowling his way into the back of a police cruiser hit the papers and Internet on May 15, the French were shocked and outraged. The Americans, less so. The Strauss-Kahn case has illuminated cultural differences between the French and American justice systems over the past six weeks but few were as sharp as the response to the "perp walk." But while former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou was telling France-Info Radio, "I found that image to be incredibly brutal, violent and cruel," here in the United States, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was shrugging his shoulders about it in print. "If you don't want to do the perp walk, don't do the crime," became his refrain. But now that the case is faltering, he's changing his tune, and so are others.
As the first weeks of L'Affair DSK progressed, the French stayed unimpressed with the perp walk, and while the Americans didn't rush to defend it, exactly, many took up positions of not being bothered by it, just like Bloomberg. The New York Times ran a piece by Sam Roberts in the City Room blog about the "American Rite" of the perp walk, which sidestepped a judgment call on the practice by profiling those who had formed it into what it is. Poynter spent a lot of words exploring the legality, ethics, and even the possible necessity of the perp walk. There was, at the time, plenty of questioning as to just how ethical the practice was--take, for example, Leigh Jones's Reuters piece pointing to it as undermining the presumption of innocence--but few American commentators took the position that it should end.