Couch: Jameis Winston saga will never really end, just fades

The Jameis Winston story ends without crossing a finish line. It just sort of fades off with an end that never really ends.

That’s the problem. It’s why people thinking about more than the BCS and the Heisman Trophy have a sick feeling now. It’s why the media are a little lost and are writing about such trivia as Florida state attorney Willie Meggs not being properly grim during his Thursday press conference.

You need to lash out at something, but it’s hard to say for sure who or what to point your finger at.

No charges. That’s it. Just forget it, as if it never happened? No, you can’t just take it back. Three weeks of connecting Winston’s name to felony sexual battery and to rape, and how did the jury of his peers find him? It never even got to that. There wasn’t even enough evidence to ask a jury what it thought.

It took 51 weeks to figure that out.

So it has been unfair all along to Winston, whose name has been in the mud. He was punished for a crime he was never even charged for.

It’s only fair to presume innocence. And either he was lying, or his accuser was.

So that means our system is presuming something about a woman who went to the police almost immediately that night a year ago and had a rape kit done. Winston’s DNA was found in her underwear.

He says consensual. She says rape.

Are we uncomfortable at all about what happened to the accuser? We have a problem with sexual assault in this country, and it’s so hard for a woman to step forward and try to get justice.

If this woman made the whole thing up, then she has hurt women everywhere. But so many things happened to her, clichés happened.

When you hear arguments about why it’s tough for victims to step forward, it’s because life is made so hard on them. That’s what happened here.

The media are blaming the Tallahassee police for not looking into this thing thoroughly enough. And it’s true that someone from that department really needs to step up now and explain why it doesn’t seem to have investigated from February until a few weeks ago, when someone leaked the story to a few media outlets.

It’s important to get an understanding of how our system failed. Otherwise, people will always wonder if police were covering for a football player.

The accuser says police told her that Tallahassee is a football town and things would be tough on her if she pursues the case. And that was right. It was hell on her.

The media, the police, the district attorney all ganged up on her, while some of the media ganged up on Winston, too. They needed to write something, get their page views. But they didn’t need to draw conclusions about Winston, or about the accuser, before any of the facts came out.

How many lies were told about this woman? She was supposedly so drunk she barely knew what was happening. That doesn’t appear to be true. She was drunk, she was asking for it, she just had regrets later. Really? How does anyone know any of that stuff?

People just guessed. A photo started running on the web showing Winston kissing her. That showed she really was friendly with him, and … OOPS, it wasn’t her.

Sorry. Next story.

But to sound sympathetic to her is to sound accusatory to Winston, which is unfair to him.

This is just so confusing, and the only fair conclusion is to go with what our justice system determined:

Winston is innocent.

In saying that, did I just accuse a woman of making up a rape? Society really needs us not to do that.

That’s the sick feeling. It’s why people now are focusing on Thursday’s press conference not being solemn enough.

What I do know is that the media made things worse for Winston and for his accuser. I know that professionalism in this profession is wavering, and training and experience needed. But really, reporting is now a profession that doesn’t know what it wants to be anymore, and it’s impossible to tell the credible from the incredible.

The media will not hold themselves accountable, just others.

The whole system isn’t right for resolving a case like this. Maybe there is no way to have a good system, and this is the best we can have. When someone is accused of a crime, any crime, the burden really should be to prove that the accused is guilty.

I get that. But still this case made things just that much harder for rape victims to step forward at the same time it dragged Winston’s name through the mud unfairly. He’ll carry that with him from now on.

You think this case just ended? We all get to carry it with us, too.