Monday, December 18, 2017

Innocent until proven guilty

Listen to mom and don't say hurtful things
About a week ago, I was working with a guy who had come into the library. Seems Guy had been charged with raping a 3 year old baby girl. Three. THREE! Pretty shocking, right? Took pretty much everything I had to stay on topic as I guided him around our resources to help him develop a defense. Why? Because until he is convicted, he didn't do anything.  Right?  Am I right?!

The other day, I was reading a story about another politician who had been accused of sexual misconduct.  The thing is, the words "charged" and "accused" are not the same thing.  Seems Roy Moore had been accused of engaging in sexual impropriety, including unwanted sexual advance and sexual assault, when both alleged victims were in their teens and Moore was in his thirties.

I think the operative word here is "accused" meaning that Mr. Moore had/has not been tried and convicted in a court of law.  I'm sorry but accusations in and of themselves are not worth the paper they written on because of the base concept of "innocent until proven guilty." 

Basically, what that means is that until you are actually convicted of a crime, in America anyway, you haven't done anything and should not be railroaded.  In many jurisdictions, the presumption of innocence is a right afforded the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international right under the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

In Coffin v. United States,156 U.S. 432 (1895), the Court emphasized this concept when it established the concept of presumption of innocence for those accused of crimes.  The court noted that:
The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law ... The evolution of the principle of the presumption of innocence, and its resultant, the doctrine of reasonable doubt, make more apparent the correctness of these views, and indicate the necessity of enforcing the one in order that the other may continue to exist.
In the present instance, Roy Moore (and most anyone who has only been accused) has only been accused of "sexual impropriety."  Just like the Guy who I was helping beat a charge of Penal Code 261.5 (among other things), Mr. Moore has only been accused of something and yet he is being castigated by the press and other politicians (but who really cares what politicians think?).  Why?  I suspect it's an election year and because he espouses something that others do not.

Bottom line, until such time as the accusations become convictions, there is no reason anyone should hold any of these accusations as anything other than mere opinions (and everyone has one of those).

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