“Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

This is just dumb.  I suppose this assumption in our courts of law is meant to protect anybody from being unfairly scapegoated or railroaded through the system.  Still, the problem here is that it defies common sense.  If someone is in court, that means they’ve been investigated by the police and found to have substantial evidence against them by an attorney.  For us to assume that anyone going through the system is probably innocent is to suggest that everyone involved in law enforcement is incompetent or corrupt.  It seems far more likely that the accused is guilty. 

It’s reasonable to say that nobody should be treated as guilty until they’re convicted, but not to say that we should assume innocence.  Obviously, virtually everyone who gets charged with a crime is guilty.  All that means is that those professionals who defend and exercise our laws are not corrupt or incompetent, which is more than I can say for the average defendant.  Perhaps this philosophy of assuming innocence explains our unfortunately abysmal conviction rate.

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3 comments on ““Innocent Until Proven Guilty”

  1. You are confusing factual with legal innocence. The reason that from a legal standpoint all defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty is to put the burden of proving guilt upon the prosecutors and to confine all presumptions to legally admissible evidence. Now, of course, there is room to argue about what should and shouldn’t be legally admissible and how “beyond a reasonable doubt” should be interpreted.

    The wiseness of the legal presumption of evidence is demonstrated by those legal systems that don’t have innocent until proven guilty where currently (or historically) scapegoating and railroading and sketchy evidence and testimony occur. The legal presumption of innocence is a philosophical check upon the system. Of course, it only works insofar as there are decent, intelligent, moral, competent, civil, law-abiding, non-fascist/dogmatic judges, prosecutors, juries, law enforcement personnel, etc. And that’s where America may be getting in to trouble these days.

    Now, if juries are finding that there the presumption of legal evidence is getting mixed in too much with factual evidence then that is a failure of education, society, lawyers and judges, the media, etc. I wouldn’t lay it on the feet of what has been an important distinction between our legal system and others.

  2. I can only assume that you’ve never had personal contact with the court system to have an opinion such as this. I’ve been on many sides of the court system and there is a tremendous amount of fallibility in the system from top to bottom.

  3. Wm, I admit that my feelng here is only that of a layman, and I actually do appreciate being taken to school (a bit!). You round out my simplistic view without deeming it totally worthless, which is always nice! Thanks!

    Jennvan, sadly, I have been in courts before, and while minor mistakes and errors are inevitable, I still think that just about everybody who actually gets hauled before a jury is guilty.

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