Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Innocent until proven guilty. The bedrock of our Justice system.

Here's a quote from Vincent Bugliosi, via a comment on the latest entry at http://truecrimeblog.blogspot.com/

Quote: Outrage: pg 29-30

Contrary to common belief, the presumption of innocence applies only inside a courtroom. It has no applicability elsewhere, although the media do not seem to be aware of this. Even the editorial sections of major American newspapers frequently express the view, in reference to a pending case, that "we"--meaning the editors and their readers--have to presume that so-and-so is innocent. To illustrate that the presumption does not apply outside the courtroom, let's say an employer has evidence that an employee has committed theft. If the employer had to presume the person were innocent, he obviously couldn't fire the employee or do anything at all. But of course he not only can fire or demote the employee, he can report him to the authorities. Actually, even in court there are problems with the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence, we all know, is a hallowed doctrine that separates us from repressive regimes. It's the foundation, in fact, for the rule that is the bedrock of our system of justice--that a defendant can be convicted of a crime only if his guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. However, legal presumptions are based on the rationale of probability. Under certain situations, experience has shown that when fact "A" is present, the presence of "B" should be presumed to exist unless and until an adverse party disproves it.


It is one thing to say that the defendant does not have to prove his innocence, and that in the absence of affirmative proof of guilt he is entitled to a not-guilty verdict even if he presented no evidence of his innocence at all. To go a step further, however, and say that he is legally presumed to be innocent when he has just been brought to court in handcuffs or with a deputy sheriff at his side seems to be hollow rhetoric. One day a defendant is going to stand up in court and tell the judge, "Your Honor, if I am legally presumed to be innocent, why have I been arrested for this crime, why has a criminal complaint been filed against me, and why am I here in court being tried?"

With thanks to Steve Huff for the blog, and to Betsy for the quote.

Betsy posted this in response to several people who insist that "innocent until proven guilty" should be a doctrine followed throughout our society, rather than a construct designed for the courtroom. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be one of the reasons our society is in such a mess.

We have become afraid to discipline our children. we want to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before we apply the spanking, or the grounding.

The children outsmart us over and over again. They get us arguing specifics, and nitpicking. If we don't spell out every disciplinary measure like a UN resolution, they will find the loopholes.


Because, after all, what if we're wrong? We can't actually PROVE the child is lying, can we? what if we're wrong? What if we spank him and it turns out that he didn't do it after all?

Guess what, parents!?


If he's not guilty this time, you can bet your bottom dollar that there's something he has done to earn that spanking! It's time to stand up as parents and say, "I know you did it; you can't weasel out of it; here's your punishment."

When we don't discipline our children, we raise a nation of selfish people, unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for their own actions, obsessed with instant gratification, and unutterably shallow.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is useful in a court of law; it has no place in our homes, our classrooms or our streets.

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