One of the basic tenets found throughout U. S. law, is that of the presumption of innocence.
Many folks are pretty much aware what the idea being stated here is, but I want to clarify what it means before moving on.
It’s really pretty simple. In the American legal system even—and maybe especially—those who appear to very likely be guilty of a crime of some sort, are expected to initially be seen, as not having committed the act in question.
The folks investigating what’s occurred, must work to determine whether or not some wrong has transpired.
If they’re able to come up with sufficient information and artifacts to show it’s likely a given law or set of them was or were broken, and that the individual suspected of breaking them, was strongly linked to them, it’s then possible to proceed to charging and presumably prosecuting a case against that one, in a court of law.
At each step along the way, the conclusion, is that the defendant is innocent until a sufficient amount of proof is provided, to meet some standard at that step.
In order to arrest and detain, officers must be able to provide a charge, and be reasonably confident, they have the perpetrator of that crime, in their possession.
At the charging phase, evidence is reviewed. Doing so must cause the district attorney or other complaining authority, to believe they’ll be able to put on a case by which the person apprehended, can be shown to be guilty of violating the crime or crimes, of which he or she, has been accused.
When the trial occurs, those tasked with deciding guilt or innocence, must be persuaded the standard for conviction has been met. That standard is different for different crimes. In the highest case, it must be decided beyond a reasonable doubt, the infraction occurred, and the one being tried is the guilty party.
Assuming that body brings back a guilty verdict, it’s typically up to a judge, to make decisions surrounding sentencing. A part of this process, is reviewing the circumstances under which the wrong was done, and considering the prior record of the convicted individual, among other things.
The important take-away is, all the way through this process, standards must be met. The accused cannot be taken into custody, charged, tried, convicted, sentenced, or punished, lest two things have happened.
The first of these, is that the former step, has reached a conclusion the case against the accused, should continue.
The next is, at the current level, the standard has been met, to count it reasonable for the case to proceed.
Of course, this discussion revolves around the legal process. At no other place than criminal or civil court, is it inherently assumed this should be the way to do things.
That said, you can be assured, most folks looking at this methodology, will agree that it’s a pretty satisfactory way respond—and most wouldn’t restrict its use to courtrooms and the like.
They may not tend to be as firmly in support of strong adherence to standards. They may be willing to assume guilt in circumstances that would even be laughed out of court in many instances at the end of similar processes.
Even so, most would likely argue, they would prefer to have others use the listed prescription, or some modified form of it, when accusing them or others of wrongdoing.
In these days of instant access to a great deal of information though, it’s not at all uncommon, for people to forget an exceptionally important part of this equation.
That component can be summed up in just two words, “due process.”
Where it’s far from simple to even delineate due process in the courts—to the degree, folks must go through a great deal of training to understand how it works—not too surprisingly, it’s even harder to do so, in many other circumstances.
This is because in a large number of them, where people have outlined how things are to proceed, they often haven’t really set detailed courses for those attempting to apply the basic ideas, to be implemented.
Put simply, it’s often left up to the ones doing things, to fill in the blanks.
Even so, much of the time, there’s sufficient structure to muddle through, and generally not have things go too badly awry.
In the often mentioned court of public opinion though, most folks haven’t begun to consider, how to come to a reasonable conclusion, about the guilt innocence of the one being “tried.”
Worse yet, one person may be calm and collected, applying solid standards, while another may respond almost totally out of emotion with little concern for evidence of any kind.
As if things weren’t already bad enough, now imagine there are those, who’ll tend to presume guilt rather than innocence there, as well.
It’s because of things like this, that folks who understand the reasons for the presumption of innocence, as well as the need for due process, very much dislike the sort of proceeding, that tries to make judgments in the public square.
That’s why you’ll see so many—generally myself included—refusing to leap headlong, into the idea that a person accused of wrongs of some sort or other, should actually be held to account without further investigation.
It’s also why many feel (wrongly) justice is being denied in cases in which feelings rather than facts, are primary drivers.
A good number of persons, fail to understand they’re guilty of a thing that used regularly to be termed, “railroading.”
Those who refuse to support the idea of acting without due process, and the presumption of innocence, may not all be motivated by seeing justice served, but a good many of them are.
And since the one having judged and found another wanting, is so sure of what he or she believes, that person begins to count those not enthused by the idea of rushing to that judgment as enemies, not just of themselves, but of righteousness.
Because this is true, the rift between the two, becomes the much wider.
I’m sure by this point, you’ve come to realize, I’m writing what I am in this little essay, as a plea to those desirous of seeing others held accountable for wrongs, before due process has been observed. I hope you’ll understand my refusal to act, when guilt hasn’t been established. The presumption of innocence is not a cornerstone of American law for no cause. Let’s hope, one day when you stand accused—though we pray it never happens—those same ideas and ideals will be applied, that you appear to wish to deny to others in the present moment. The result if they’re not, is one I hope you never see.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.