In my criminal law textbook today, I read this… how shall I say it.
I read this cute excerpt:
Persons accused of crime in Anglo-American legal systems are presumed to be innocent, which means that the prosecution must prove every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
How well is our American judicial system adhering to this principle?
I immediately thought of one of the more recent cases: Troy Davis. Davis was executed after being charged as guilty for the murder of a police officer. Thing is, no physical evidence was brought forth, and 7 out of the 9 jury members backpeddled and took back their stories. The court refused (on several occasions) to rehear the case, or to overturn jury verdicts. Davis had to essentially prove his innocence with stronger evidence than that which was used to charge him as guilty.
Countless other examples abound – especially in cases where an additional charge would simply add severity to the defendant’s punishment. The charge of armed robbery, for instance, is notorious for being handed despite the real and actual lack of possession of a weapon. Yet, the courts assume, based on some evidence or another, that the defendant had a weapon. So, even though it could be later determined that the defendant did not actually possess a weapon, the defendant is charged with an armed robbery (as opposed to only being charged with a robbery). This charge, as you can guess, carries a more severe punishment.
The defendant would be burdened with proving innocence, as opposed to being charged with guilt that is proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’
What I doubt is that our courts are making sure evidence and elements are indeed proven beyond a ‘reasonable doubt.’
Would love to hear feedback in the comments section.