THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE…


BLOG POST 6 - Presumed Innocent

This is a bedrock principle upon which our society is able to maintain any sense of judicial decorum and sanity.  If we shift from the burden of proof being on the accuser rather than the accused, we will become a society in which there is no sense of security for anyone.  For several weeks now, I’ve been hearing the demand that, “a woman’s truth must be believed.”  What is a ‘woman’s truth?’  Is that different from a ‘man’s truth?’  I am not trying to belittle the trauma experienced by any woman in sexual assault, harassment, or abuse but rather than arguing for ‘a woman’s truth’ should we not be arguing for the Truth?  Just because a man or a woman asserts something to be the truth, even if it is deemed their truth and it is not the Truth it cannot be accepted as the final truth.

That is where the ‘Presumption of Innocence’ must remain the standard by which we operate in our society.  Anything less opens the door to scurrilous and defamatory accusations or allegations being allowed to destroy an enemy with no potential backlash and accountability.  That would plunge our society into a state of darkness that none should be willing to accept.  Just because I do not like someone or something from an ideological position that is not justification to reject the demand that we follow the principle of ‘Presumption of Innocence.’  Would you not want that for yourself or those you love?  If yes, then you should want it for everyone.

There is no direct statement in the Constitution that guarantees the ‘Presumption of Innocence’ but the general principle is taken from English Common Law.  It has been backed numerous times in the courts.  However, the 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendments both speak of “due process” that is intended to be carried out.  In ‘due process’ there is the understood principle that it is your right to expect to be “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  That means guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Therefore, in that sense, it is a Constitutional Right.

Most legal scholars argue that the burden of proof is squarely on the shoulders of the accuser.  It is incumbent upon them to show evidence that the accused is guilty.  Inference, innuendo, and circumstantial evidence alone should not be enough to convict.  It is and must remain a bedrock principle of the administration of our ‘criminal law’ and our societal interactions.  The Model Penal Code, promulgated in final form in 1962 and serves as the basis for many state codifications, retains the concept of the presumption as supplementary to the reasonable doubt standard.  However, it changes the crucial term for ‘presumption’ to ‘assumption’.

It reads: “in the absence of such proof [beyond a reasonable doubt], the innocence of the defendant is assumed.”  That, as stated by the drafters, was because they considered is superfluous to add the instruction.  There can be evidence presented that is forensically sufficient to connect the accused with the crime without corroborating witnesses, but that does not lessen the burden of the accuser to prove the guilt.  The guilt must be deemed ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’  Sadly, there are people in prison today that were deemed guilty by law enforcement and the judiciary without giving them the benefit of the Presumption of Innocence. Are we willing to allow our nation and society to take the opposite position of “Presumption of Guilt” until the accused proves themselves innocent?  That would antithetical to a free society and that is not the Spirit of our Founders and the Intent of our Criminal Laws.  The Presumption of Innocence is and must remain a pillar upon which our freedoms rest.

I argue, that the “Presumption of Innocence” is also a biblical principle and concept.  The Bible requires truthful witnesses to be used to determine guilt.  Today, we have forensic evidence and detailed detective work to help determine guilt and/or innocence.  Deuteronomy 19:15-20 – “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed. 16 ” If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 “The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. 20 ” The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.”  

 I want you to notice several things in this passage, which help validate the idea of “Presumption of Innocence.”  First, one witness was not sufficient, but two or more witnesses were required to confirm guilt.  Second, if the witness was suspected of being malicious (false) both the accused and the witness stood before the priests and judges.  The testimony was thoroughly investigated and if the witness was found to be false, then the false witness incurred the punishment he had intended for the one he accused.  That is incredibly powerful!  The purpose was so that others would hear what had happened and be afraid to make false allegations.  There was a penalty for fabricating charges against another.

In our society, if we imposed sufficiently harsh penalties upon those making false allegations as to become a deterrent we would find fewer of those types of situations arising.  If there is no penalty or only minor repercussions for making a false allegation, false allegations will become commonplace.  If we allow the disruption of an innocent person’s life with no negative consequence toward the accuser other than the accused filing litigation, we do harm to our free society and our judicial system.  There is always the danger of a rogue, diabolical, despotic government or arm of government using False Allegations and False Witnesses for their purposes.  It becomes even more likely if there are not legal or societal repercussions for so doing.

Let expand it this way and attempt to highlight some the dangers of failing to maintain the principle of the “Presumption of Innocence.”  If we do not maintain this principle we become a law unto ourselves and the threat to our society is immense.  If we lose the ‘Presumption of Innocence’ as a binding principle we could see situations where someone took a dislike for a person or politician and physically attacked them.  There are those on the Left who insist that “presumption of innocence” only applies to criminal trials.  That opens the door for incredible violations of individual rights and is frightening.  If it was not for the principle that everyone is “presumed innocent” in every facet of life, there becomes no more room for formal society because we would all be involved in an endless and random maze of acts of revenge and counter-revenge acts against each other because everyone is “Presumed Guilty” and that would create an unlivable world and chaos of epic proportions.

We cannot allow hearsay no matter how moving the story is to determine guilt or innocence.  We must have factual evidence, credible witnesses to corroborate the accounts or crimes, and allow the accused his/her day in court with the “Presumption of Innocence.”  In a great measure that principle is on the ballot in these mid-terms.  The differences between those on the Left (Democrats) and those on the Right (Republicans) has never been more transparent and clear.  I am not claiming the Republicans are without fault, but I am taking a stand that the difference in objectives is unmistakable.  If we want the Rule of Law and have any hope of returning to a time and state in which we are “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we have only one path to follow.  We vote NO on the Democrats, at least all Democrats who are in lock-step with the Establishment Democrats in Washington, DC.  I am voting for America in this election and praying for sanity and civility to be restored.

God bless you and God bless America is my prayer, desire, and plea!

 

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