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Wed Apr 11, 2012, 08:18 PM

Presumed Innocent; Not Guilty; & Guilty

There have been enough posts regarding "don't judge Zimmerman" and the right to presumed innocent, that a few moments ago, I mistook a tongue-in-cheek OP for the real thing. Throughout life, I have made my share of errors -- and admittedly have made an ass of myself from time to time. That said, I will attempt to pay my dues, so to speak, by addressing a couple of the issues in cases like Zimmerman's.

Such cases of violence, which destroy human lives, outrage people .... and have done so throughout our nation's history. Our legal system, at least in theory, is able to deal with this. There is, within the legal system, a presumption of innocence, including in the period between when a person is arrested and goes to trial. This presumption continues through the guilt phase of a criminal trial, up until the judge instructs the jury, and the jurors determine their verdict.

Those legal protections, defined by the Constitution and constitutional law (cases decided by federal courts) are part of the court process. Likewise, in certain cases, those protections can extend to a person's employment -- often by way of union contracts, which are legal documents -- meaning a person may not be fired for being arrested, absent a conviction. But it does not apply to the "court of public opinion."

A person might believe a person who is arrested is guilty of a crime (in fact, they may be convinced that a person is guilty before an arrest), based upon what they have heard, or read, or been told about the crime. More, if they have first-hand knowledge of the crime (including victims and/or family and friends of the victim), they may believe a person is guilty. There is absolutely nothing "wrong" in making a judgement on a current event of this type, any more than it is wrong for people to try to identify who Jack the Ripper was.

In a court case, prospective jurors are questioned to determine if they have made up their minds, one way or the other. That's a good thing. For everyone is entitled to a fair trial .... and such protections, when provided today to even the most vicious criminals, help to insure the rights of innocent people in the future.

Still, no judge or attorney actually expects that potential jurors will come to the court as an absolutely clean slate. Especially in high profile cases, most potential jurors will have some knowlede of the case. More, as Vincent Bugliosi has pointed out, most potential jurors enter a court room aware that the police and prosecutor believe the defendant is guilty; and, in their life experiences, most people who go on trial in a criminal case have been found guilty. The key to justice is that decent people can set aside impressions, and decide a case entirely upon the evidence presented by the prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Under these conditions, a jury may find a person guilty, or not guilty (or there can be a "hung jury". "Not guilty" does not equal "innocent" .... it means the prosecutor did not present enough evidence to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Reasonable doubt" is a tricky thing. No one has ever provided a perfect definition of what that means. I would suggest that it is rooted in common sense: a reasonable doubt doesn't mean beyond any doubt -- although there are convictions that are beyond any doubt -- although some defense attornies with guilty clients may try to instill "any doubt" to try to win their cases, just as some prosecutors will deny the possibility of reasonable doubt.

Our legal system is indeed imperfect. One of my late uncles, a senior investigator, told me about a night when he caught a guy, bloody hammer in hand, with his ex-girlfriend's corpse. In NYS, a person can be arraigned on a felony charge by a Justice of the Peace -- which is a town or village "judge," who is not required to be an attorney. Felony trials can only be heard by a real judge. This night, they had to awaken the local Justice, and bring him to the local court. There, as they were preparing to bring the defendant in, theJustice said to my uncle, "Okay, bring the guilty son-of-a-bitch in, and let's give him a fair hearing."

Still, though imperfect, our system has remarkable potential to reach a just decision.

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply Presumed Innocent; Not Guilty; & Guilty (Original post)
H2O Man Apr 2012 OP
WingDinger Apr 2012 #1
H2O Man Apr 2012 #7
bigtree Apr 2012 #2
H2O Man Apr 2012 #3
H2O Man Apr 2012 #4
coeur_de_lion Apr 2012 #5
H2O Man Apr 2012 #6
scarletwoman Apr 2012 #8

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 08:31 PM

1. This is all based upon the SOCIAL CONTRACT


Yaknow that thing the Rethugs are trying their best to ruin. They sure like to pick and choose.

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Response to WingDinger (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:27 PM

7. Well said.

Very well said, indeed.

I remember once, back in 1974, when Rubin Carter told me that the reason "Lady Justice" wore a blind-fold was to cover up the fact that she had dollar signs for eyeballs. Too often the case. And, far too often, it is that petty picking and choosing that you so accurately identify.

Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 08:40 PM

2. I daresay, there's may not have been a significant charge without some presumption of guilt

. . . from those seeking justice for the shooting of this young man. I find it a curious position being presented by some here to just sit back and let the justice system do its thing when it has been so inexplicably slow in bringing charges which would put the shooter behind bars and awaiting that ultimate judgment. Plenty of folks are in jail awaiting judgment. This is a case where many feel the shooter should have been arrested and held for trial on the face of the evidence already apparent to many of us. I'm not understanding the folks urging us to be confident in the same justice system which has been so slow and negligent in moving this case forward (in my view). That didn't come without pressure, I think.

We tend to forget that, while there may well be distinct lines drawn between the public judgment and that of our courts, the process is one for the people, and the actions of the people outside of the courts are often integral to the prosecution and the courts reaching that ultimate judgment. I'm at a loss to imagine a justice system and a court working effectively without that input and initial judgment from the outside.


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Response to bigtree (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 08:46 PM

3. I definitely agree.

I listened to Rev Al tonight .... and I appreciate what he said about not celebrating .... but I am moved by the Goodness of those who demanded justice. Without this pressure, the Sanford police chief and the prosecutor would have dropped it. So, maybe I'm not celebrating, but I'm feeling very good about a positive moment in a tragic and violent case.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 09:47 PM

4. kick .....

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 01:57 PM

5. I've read all the posts that say he is presumed innocent and I can't argue with that

Even though I think he is guilty as hell. The presumption of innocence is for the court. Not for a democratic message board. It protects all of us I suppose, if we are ever accused of a crime. GZ deserves his day in court just like anybody else. I'm sad that it took a major movement to get him to court. It's scary to me how close he came to simply getting away with murder.

Innocent people go to jail sometimes. Look at your friend Rubin. Guilty people go free all the time. Look at OJ. Our court system is far from perfect. I don't care at this point what happens to this guy in court. I think his parents wanted the facts to come out in court and now they will. I do want to know the facts as they really are and not what we are all making up.

The prosecutor struck me as a savvy woman. I listened to her talk about evidence, physical and otherwise, and I believe that she wouldn't bring 2nd degree murder unless she had strong evidence to support that charge. I think he will go away for a long time. I don't know how I feel about that. But I am glad that he will see his case tried.

I think he was a racist over-zealous idiot who made an epic mistake and took a boy's life "presuming" he was a thug. He should be punished for that.

I'm sorry I missed Rev. Al's speech. I will have to look it up. I remember him from when I lived in NY and the Tawana Brawley case. That was an epic mistake too, though no one lost their life. But over the years I have come to respect him and I feel quite fond of him, like an eccentric uncle who can be very eloquent and kind. I do enjoy listening to him speak. He sometimes can say just the right thing to make people feel better. He loves to stick up for the underdog. I like that in a man.

H I have not been on this board since * was pResident. I have not been this angry since then -- this seems to be the only thing that motivates me to come to DU. Lots of anger and a sense of unfairness and outrage.

My life is so peaceful now and yet this tragedy moved me to come back among the DUers who I knew would understand why I felt this way.

I kind of missed the feeling of camaraderie and it has been nice to be back for a bit.

Good to see your posts as always, so wise and so calming. Rather like the Rev. Al.

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Response to coeur_de_lion (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:24 PM

6. Well thank you,

my Wonderful Friend & Sister! It surely makes me happy to see you here in this neighborhood again!

This brutal case has opened a sore on the surface of American culture. That includes racism, violence, crime, and a too often unresponsive legal system.

I believe that both the prosecutor and the new defense attorney are serious, talented professionals, dedicated to justice. This, I am convinced, is huge. And much needed. For if there were a show-boating gadfly, such as that Mr. Biased that represented "tot mom" in Florida, s/he would serve as a fuse that could easily ignite a powder keg of hsatred & violence in America. And I am not trying to be dramatic in saying this.

The horror and pain of the tragic murder of a teenaged boy must not be forgotten. Yet, the trial can be very important in promoting healing. Yes, it can.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 06:37 PM

8. Thank you for writing this. k&r

I've mostly not posted on any Martin/Zimmerman threads, and I'm happy to make yours the exception.

To me, the main issue has always been the lack of an arrest. Now that the arrest has been made and the issue of Trayvon's murder is in the hands of the Court, I am content to give outrage a rest and watch for what happens next.

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