Innocent Until Proven Guilty??? -- Not in Today's World!
Guilty Until Proven Innocent - Today's standard!
Greetings and welcome to my tiny corner of cyberspace! Today’s general topic is, and I use the term loosely, “Our Justice System”, an important topic for today's troubles!
Who can argue that our judicial system needs a MAJOR overhaul of epic proportions. Everyday, we read about innocent people who have been incarcerated for decades, finally getting out of prison when it was discovered they were innocent in the first place! What a travesty! Being in jail for something you didn’t do is nothing short of criminal!!!! But, it is no surprise that this is happening daily…much more than it ever did in decades past. Why are things like this happening? Why today, with our advanced criminal investigation technology, DNA science, computers, world-wide databases, etc. do these injustices occur more than they ever did?
Well, this hub page is not about our broken judicial system, for the most part. The main focus of this article is specifically the statement I always hear about: that is - being ‘Innocent until Proven Guilty!” I personally experienced the opposite many years ago, so I know firsthand that often, a person is "Guilty until Proven Innocent! "
Note: Please forgive me if I repeated myself or seemed disorganized with the content. This article is very personal to me and reminded me of some painful events in my life. Thank you!
A Short Trip to the Distant Past!
In the past, I believe the statement, Innocent Until Prove Guilty: was fairly accurate…and I mean the distant past! Before the media and instant communications became the norm, due process actually had time to work before peoples’ lives were ruined beyond recognition. I believe the time-line went something like this:
A person is accused of breaking the law. Depending on the severity of the offense, the accused was either arrested on the spot or let go on strict conditions. The person was read their rights, if arrested, and then an investigation was conducted. Depending on the accusation, it could take a few days or much longer before charges, if any, were filed against the defendant and the matter moved into the justice system. Does this sound fairly accurate? The defendant, before and also after being charged, was presumed innocent and the courts had to prove, with evidence obtained through the investigation, that this person actually committed the offense in question. The defendant was innocent until the prosecution could prove otherwise without reasonable doubt.
Time Warp to the Present!
Today, it seems society; with a good deal of help from the media; television, radio, the newspapers, etc. and our justice system, are now judging people before they are even brought up on charges or even appear in a courtroom! This is just plain wrong! Most of the time the reports the media get are not even based in fact, just hearsay by some angry people that think they know what happened. A citizen gets angry and calls the media and gets everyone stirred up. The vast majority of the facts are not verified, but to sell papers, it is printed. These stories hit the limelight sometimes minutes after someone allegedly committed an offense! And what happens?....BOOOM? The public reacts to these half-truths, half-baked stories, getting all worked up just because someone jumped the gun and reported something that may or may not have occurred. Why? Again, money and profit, specifically to sell papers or improve TV ratings! That is why! Impossible you say? Nope, for this author himself was a victim of this travesty (more on that later.)
So, our presumed innocent person is now the target of an angry public. Again, the person accused has not been charged with a single thing, but the newpapers, ( I will use them as the primary example here), plaster his face, address, etc. all over the place, sometimes for days, stating this person is suspected of some wrongdoing! But do people read that one little qualifier word, ‘suspected’? Nope! Maybe this person did do something wrong, but most of the time what is reported in the paper is not totally true. Reporters do not have all the facts, just make assumptions based on what they hear. So what happens then? The public reads this stuff and starts judging the accused, and later, these same people are in the jury pool! Now, in my view, most people, and think it is human nature, will think the worst of anyone even accused of being involved in an illegal or criminal action…be honest. You see a person’s name and their alleged crime, even though the newspaper is careful to say it is just an accusation, and you jump to conclusions! At that moment, the defendant, again, most of time hasn’t even been charged with any wrongdoing by the authorities, is thought of by the public to be guilty and should be punished. Untrue? Nope, for this happened to me a long time ago.
This happens so often…I have done my research and know the media are a major problem and actually hinder the legal system! It is just sickening! It our, ‘want it now’ society, waiting for anything, even justice with FACTS, is becoming scarce. No, it is lets fry the SOB and save the taxpayer some money! No facts, no proof, nothing but emotional reactions fed by what selected words the press uses in its report! People think that if the media reported it, then it is true…man, is that delusional! Even public polls show most people mistrust the media, etc., but even though that is true, these news reports continue hurting the innocent!
Anyway, the defendant is totally looked upon in a negative light by the public at this point! No proof has been given, no charges filed, but many times, the person is already guilty due to what people have read or heard from the new media. Now, the pressure begins on the police to get the facts fast in order to limit a possible lynch mob! So, this can cause the police to make mistakes, etc., by rushing an investigation to calm the public! In the meantime, the person, who by now is probably charged with something to appease the public that the media has stirred into a frenzy, has been embarrassed, humiliated, and is having their lives ruined right before their very eyes! Innocent until PROVEN guilty? Not at this point!
Obviously, this is not always the case…many times people are guilty and should pay the price, but it should never be influenced by the media in anyway. The justice system is the place for any life altering decisions to be made, based on the LAW, evidence collected legally, undeniable truth, not some news media story which has already biased most of the jury pool!
But, the opposite happens too often…innocent people getting judged and convicted by the public and news media before even being charged by the authorities!!! Even if one person is the victim of this injustice, that is too many! . Public insanity is out of control while innocent people’s lives are being ruined, some being imprisoned based on unproven facts or hasty investigations due to public outcry! This ‘witch hunt mentality’ and 'lynch mob' thinking is more and more prevalent today and I believe strongly it is the news media that has caused much of this.
Have YOU or anyone you know, personally experienced "Guilty Until Proven Innocent!
Thoughts by Britton Lofton - Legislative and Public Affairs Professional
"Public opinion and personal prejudice are often the moving factors in the perception of guilt of individuals accused of crimes. America’s 5th, 6th and 14th amendments provide for the principle “innocent until proven guilty” though the United States constitution does not cite one’s “presumption of innocence”.
During criminal trials the defendant is forced to fight for innocence against all the resources of the state. If the defendant is found guilty the result could be probation, jail or, in more serious crimes, death.
Too often America’s criminal justice system combined with personal bias and ratings driven media scrutiny render guilty verdicts on those who are supposedly presumed innocent. Just take a look at the many victories accomplished by the Innocence Project, dedicated to “exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.”
According to the website, Apublicdefender.com, in an article titled “Presumption of Guilt” addressing the presumption of innocence:
“The presumption of innocence is dead, at least in practice. The real presumption, if you must, is that of guilt. Despite the constitutional and historical directives to the contrary, the defendant “enjoys” a presumption of guilt from the moment of the institution of criminal proceedings. From the absurdly low standard of probable cause needed to arrest a citizen, to the pitifully slanted pre-trial proceedings, to the trial itself, the presumption weighs heavily against all those who have been charged with a crime.”
The “presumption” of innocence requires the government to prove the charges against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt; and while many are still in an uproar surrounding the acquittal verdict in the Casey Anthony case last week, that is a somewhat anomalous conclusion. Most people put on trial in this country and presumed guilty from the onset of trial do not walk as easily as Anthony.
Real Life Experience - A Personal Nightmare!
What I am about to tell you is a personal experience of mine. Yes, I am a victim of this “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” mentality, and know it is true. I experienced this many, many years ago. I know firsthand what it is like to be judged, tried, and convicted by the Press based on hearsay, and half truths. In today’s system, you are Guilty until PROVEN Innocent…I am living proof!
Before I go any further, no, I was not accused of any serious offense…I didn’t kill anyone, rob anyone, cheat anyone, etc. I was eventually a Class C, 3rd degree MISDEMEANOR, a very minor offense. The facts of the accusation and charge are irrelevant, so am not going to go into any detail. But what happened was just unbelievable!
Just so you know, the minor charge was eventually dropped, no evidence to support the ludicrous accusation to begin with, but due to the media frenzy, was charged with this offense just to calm everyone down, but the damage was already done by this point.
I was never arrested or charged with anything, but someone called the media and for several days, my reputation was smeared, my career ruined, and my life almost destroyed. It didn’t matter that the authorities had no real evidence against me, but it didn’t matter, the newspapers and TV media already had the public angry and in their eyes, I was guilty. It got so bad that eventually I was charged with that minor charge, more like a slap on the wrist, but this happened weeks after the media blasted my good name all over creation.
So, here I was, not arrested, not charged, nothing, but already the media caused me to lose my job and hurt my family severely! All the 'facts' and I use that term loosely, were based on hearsay, misinformation, and just plain lies! Add to this that there was absolutely NO PROOF whatsoever! I was now guilty in the public's eye, and had to prove my innocence! Did it end there…not a chance. After the media trashing of my character and reputation, now the court hearing came into being. I won’t go into the circus that happened in this hearing, even now it hurts to even remember this…a nightmare that never ends.. but let me tell you, I was in the frying pan and the fire simultaneously! No fair hearing for me due to the media, who somehow got wind of my hearing and made a spectacle outside the court room...all for a lousy misdemeanor?! It looked like the court had Charles Manson coming to the court! What a zoo! To be blunt, I was screwed and going to get the royal shaft!
Anyway, to make a long story short, I was told by my own attorney that getting a fair hearing was next to impossible at this point. I asked why and he told me that because of the media feeding me to the sharks previously, getting everything stirred up, etc. that and the judge and prosecutor were up for re-election, I had no chance to win. Why? Because as a public servant, a teacher, I was guilty …period, had to prove my innocence at great cost, and lost so much even after I did prove it. So, my own attorney rolled over on me and let me hang! Fair hearing...my butt!!!
What did I really do to receive all of this trash? In my opinion, not a thing. I eventually proved my innocence, with the help of a real attorney, not some court jester! But not after enduring a lot of pain and suffering. Minor though this misdemeanor charge was, the media blew it way out of proportion and ruined my career for the rest of my life. Now that is the real crime…the destruction of a great career for nothing! Even when you do prove you are innocent, your life will never be the same...you are labeled for life! Almost 20 years later this stupid, very minor charge still haunts me once in a while!
Cut and Print - my personal summary!
Even though I PROVED I did nothing wrong and the charge was dropped, I still continue to pay for this even at times! Some justice! I have tried to get this fixed, but dealing with the government to correct a mistake is like asking for the moon! I have given up on that...a huge black smear against me until the day I die and for what...a lie and miscarriage of justice!
I blame the media for most of this travesty since they got the public in an uproar over it before I was even charged and the only reason I was charged was because a couple people went nuts when they THOUGHT I did something wrong, only hearing from the media. Innocent until proven guilty…not in my case! I sure know how Jesus felt when He was accused and put to death, well, at least to some degree I understand it!
What is strange is that I respect our justice system, well somewhat, even though it is flawed and needs a major fix! Too many innocent people are paying outrageous prices for things they didn’t even do! I do blame the news media for the vast majority of this pain and heartache. It sickens me to see people get ‘railroaded’ and can’t even get a fair hearing or trial due to media coverage that condemns them before they even speak to the authorities. And of course, the corrupt and unethical judges and lawyers add more to the mix! I do believe in freedom of speech…never would be against that, but when it is abused and used as a tool to hurt innocent people for profit, well that is where I draw the line.
At Least I am in Good Company!
My heart goes out to anyone who has personally experienced “Guilty until Proven Innocent” I know your pain and the destruction it has or is causing you and your families! If you are guilty, then you deserve what you get, but when you are totally innocent, get raked over the coals and sometimes are wrongly convicted of something you didn’t do, I will say a special prayer for you!
Just take solace that when you meet God, true justice will prevail! His opinion is all that matters…He knows the whole story and will never condemn you! In God’s Court, you are Innocent until proven Guilty, but even if guilty, God in His mercy will forgive that crime since His Son Jesus already paid that price for you! That is how I got through this mess of mine. I know in this life, I will not likely see true justice, but my life is short here. When I enter eternity, I will be totally at peace and all of this injustice, unfairness, and even this event will fade and become meaningless. Praise God!
God Bless you all and may you find peace, joy, and security in this chaotic world!