Precinct 333

Friday, July 02, 2004

Presumption of Innocence/Presumption of Guilt

Dan Abrams has an interesting piece on Jewish World Review today. In it, He talks about the legal concept of presumption of innocence. His point -- it does not and should not exist outside the courtroom.

Think about it. For to us presume someone innocent is for to us presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone. I'm not willing to assume that unless I'm a juror. It's a legal fiction that was designed for the courtroom. Since the authorities have the power to take away someone's freedom, we force them to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and give the defendant the presumption of innocence.

Now that will be important for me next Tuesday, because I'll be headed downtown to the Jury Assembly room, and may get picked to sit on a case. I've got to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt. But that does not meant that I have to assume that the Harris County sheriff or Precinct 8 Constables are a bunch of screw-ups incompetent to investigate even the source of the mess in a baby's diaper. I instead need to require that the prosecution show me sufficient evidence to convince me that their judgment is correct.

What that does not mean is that I cannot make judgments on every other case in the world besides the one I sit on. If I have concluded Michael Jackson to be a marauding pedophile and Scott Peterson to be a philandering sociopath, I've done nothing wrong. I am not required to believe that Kobe's accuser is a lying slut after money just because there is not yet a conviction (though that may be his defense). The fate of those men is not in my hands.

I'm pleased that I don't know of any big cases coming up here in Houston at this time. I'm glad I dodged the Clara Harris (4 miles away) and Andrea Yates (7 miles away) cases. I got picked last time for a capital murder case and caused a mistrial -- how could I know during voir dire that on the first day I would look out, see one of my former students in the midst of the victim's family, and realize that she was the victim's little sister? The fact that I had held her in my arms outside my classroom a few days after the murder while she wept her way through an explanation of why she wasn't ready for my test made me incapable of presuming innocence.

So here's looking to Tuesday. I hope I get excused.


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