The complicated areas of being innocent until proven guilty

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a statement pretty much all Americans are familiar with since we’ve always been taught that. “Guilty until proven innocent” becomes much download (1)more of a norm in society today. Why aren’t we giving people the benefit of the thought nowadays? What has changed us that makes us question their “truthfulness”? Or better yet what influences our thoughts on the suspect? I think that over the years police/courts systems have changed drastically. Different things are influencing the decision of someone’s innocence. And is that fair? This issue, I believe, has not gotten the attention it should get because people today are being convicted of things they didn’t commit or the other way around. Why should we even have to question the decision of the court? How has this system grown to be what it is now and how is our system “efficient”?

The Huffington Post describes the term “innocent until proven guilty” as the “bedrock principle of American justice.” But what is the principle of American justice? What makes this the “bedrock” or better yet the “principle”? Also, who decides that this is the principle? What defines American justice?  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-abrams/presumed-innocent-bernie_b_170933.html) I think that innocent until proven guilty being described as the “bedrock” of American justice is interesting. Different people have different opinions on whether this is the case. According to this part of the article, American justice is defined by the term innocent until proven guilty, but there more to the American justice than just this term.

The first question I mainly focused on was: Is the evidence we find/have enough to convict or not convict the person? I think this is a hard question because what defines “enough evidence”? How do you measure what is usable evidence and what is not? An article I read made the statement,”Most people rightly consider the system as slanted.. chief of which is the requirement that the person is presumed innocent until the government meets the highest burden of proof known in American law: proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty.” (http://stimmel-law.com/criminaljustice_us.html) Who accounts for the “highest burden of proof”? How much is enough evidence? What if there isn’t any evidence, what happens then? When I read this, it makes me believe that the government is only looking for evidence that will show guilt in the suspect. Is all evidence used fairly toward trial? Maybe we should look deeper into what defines evidence as. I think evidence is a tricky aspect of a trial. Evidence can be used to hurt or benefit the suspect. “Flip the criminal presumption of innocence by presuming that claimants are guilty until they can prove their innocence by a preponderance of the evidence or by clear and convincing evidence.” (http://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1102&context=mjlr) If we look at the issue from this perspective, what makes the evidence “clear”? What is there isn’t clear evidence? Do we let the suspect go or detain them until we find it? There has been many cases where people have been detained in jail for years because there wasn’t clear evidence. Do we have the right, in our “efficient” system, to hold people until we have conveying evidence?

The second question I focused on was: After you are set “free”, are you really free? Or does the public still consider you to be guilty? This correlates with the presumptions people make when they hear about a case. We write people off as being guilty or innocent right of the bat. I believe if you are presumed guilty by people from the beginning of the case, you will continue to be guilty for pretty much the rest of your life. Judgement is hard to erase from our mind, so once we make a judgement it will be there forever especially if the case is something sensitive. “It’s generally inadmissible in court, and yet most of us live our lives based on what people we trust tell us they heard or learned. Demanding that all of us presume every defendant innocent outside of a courtroom is to demand that we stop evaluating facts, thereby suffocating independent thought and opinion.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-abrams/presumed-innocent-bernie_b_170933.html) Why is it hard to presume the suspect as innocent? Or does it go further into the vocabulary we use such as “suspect”? When we use the word “suspect,” that automatically makes me think they’re guilty? Have words evolved so much that we have think of a word and make a connection to another? Do we have the right to continue saying they are guilty even after all evidence says they are not? What is more important our opinion on the person or the actual case? Maybe we should look into what the psychological effects the “suspect” goes through as a result of judgments everyone perceives. We should look at how the judgments may have an affect on the case itself, does it sway the judge or jury? “It is critical to remember that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal term and that just because a person is viewed  under the law as “innocent” does not mean that they did not commit the offense. It simply means that a jury was unable to unanimously agree that the government was able to prove the crime beyond and to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.” (http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/01/16/innocent-proven-guilty-really-mean/) I think that the question that really struck me when I read this from an article was: Is there a difference between being ‘innocent’ and being ‘not guilty’? In my opinion there are consequences for being “not guilty” vs. being innocent. I think being guilty implies that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict them but the possibility of them having done the crime is still there. Being innocent could imply that you really didn’t have anything to do with the crime. Why don’t we also say that if a person is viewed as guilty then maybe they didn’t commit the crime? I think it is important we look at how words have an affect. Why does it have to mean that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict you instead of you were just innocent period?

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