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Friday, July 01, 2011

Guilt and innocence and Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the rest of us.

David K. Williams, Jr.

The rape case against French politician and former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is running into problems. He was released from house arrest earlier today. (See The New York Times' article "Strauss-Kahn Is Released as Case Teeters.")

Good for him. But how about all the other people charged with crimes, sitting in Rikers Island, or Denver County jail, waiting for the disposition of their case?

They do not have the money to hire a team of lawyers and investigators. They do not have the money to pay for their own guard while on house arrest.

Nope. They just sit in a cell. And wait.

And every single one of them is innocent. Every. Single. One. Of them.

"But Dave!" you say, "that is outrageous! Almost all criminal defendants waiting for disposition are actually guilty! You know that!"

I do not. I know the opposite. And so should you.

There is a basic common law concept in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that too many of us have let become a mere afterthought.

That concept is the presumption of innocence. It means that we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that, in fact, every single person charged with a crime is absolutely and completely innocent until a "guilty" verdict is entered.

It does not mean that we must reserve judgment as to the person's guilt or innocence until we hear the evidence. Not at all. It means he is actually and totally innocent and we are to consider him actually innocent until and unless he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We would do well to keep that concept in mind as we deal with the criminally accused. Accusation is not proof. It is mere accusation.

Any of us can be accused of anything by anyone at anytime. We all will want to be afforded that presumption of innocence when we are accused. We must therefore give it to others.

Or it is useless.

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