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AsksQuestions's avatar

Is people being innocent until proven guilty a legal fiction?

Asked by AsksQuestions (110points) November 15th, 2023
13 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

I keep finding stories about people that went to jail after they couldn’t prove their innocence after a witness says they did something, without a shred of tangible evidence besides their word.

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smudges's avatar

Never heard of that. Examples?

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Forever_Free's avatar

We work on a law of “presumption of Innocence”. The prosecution (accuser) has the obligation to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Anything else is barbaric.
This doesn’t mean there are cases that show a bias of being dealt with as “presumed guilty” as we have experienced in this country toward some people.

ragingloli's avatar

It is impossible to prove that an innocent person is guilty.
Yet there are countless innocent people in prison.
So yes, “innocent until proven guilty” is a fiction.
It should be “innocent until a judge/jury is convinced of your guilt”.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Eyewitness error is the number one cause of wrongful convictions in the US. So yes.

Blackberry's avatar

It generally works, but yes the legal system can be very corrupt and/or full of incompetence.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Not just incompetence. Perception makes a difference.

A nice (but nefarious looking) person may be found guilty (despite being innocent) because he or she ‘looks guilty’ and doesn’t present well.

Conversely, a celebrity or famous person (think OJ Simpson) is found not guilty, largely because of his fame and celebrity.

In some cases, perception outweighs truth.

jca2's avatar

Often, the media will research a case independently and report on it, which helps sway popular opinion. An example I’m thinking of is the Gilgo Beach serial killer, who is currently being held without bail and there has been much written about the case and documentary shows about the case (Dateline and others),.

flutherother's avatar

To make the case that it’s a legal fiction you would have to provide more substantial evidence than you have given us so far.

snowberry's avatar

Well there’s this:

Maybe they didn’t go to jail, but they might as well have. Their lives were ruined. There are countless stories like this.

seawulf575's avatar

It is how it is supposed to be. The judicial system is set up so that the state has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the judicial system has been corrupted, sometimes from inside and sometimes from outside. There have been many cases where someone was falsely accused and the case comes down to the opinion of two different people. In that case how can anyone be convicted? But it happens. Other jellies have given examples of where it happened. As for the corruption, look at the Duke Lacrosse rape case as a perfect example.

And I agree with @jca2 about how the media plays a part. Instead of just reporting on a case, opinions and feelings often creep in adding to the problem. Our society has degraded now to the point where if you are accused of something, you are expected to prove your innocence. Anything less means you are guilty. If you get off the charge it means you are guilty but got out on a loophole.

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