April 26, 2003

The presumption of innocence

The right to be presumed innocent does not begin at the moment a jury is impaneled. Rather, it begins well in advance of the filing of an accusatory instrument; indeed, it should guide the way the facts are gathered and disseminated throughout an investigation. In addition, it is not just jurors who must hold fast to this presumption. All citizens should - and law enforcement, in particular, should as well.

This was part of the scathing commentary of Jonna M. Spilbor, frequent guest commentator on Court-TV, former criminal defense attorney, and former prosecutor with the San Diego City Attorney's Office, Criminal Division, and the Office of the United States Attorney in the Drug Task Force and Appellate units, in which she outlines the way that the prosecutors, police, press and public have already presumed the guilt of Scott Peterson for the heinous crime with which he has been charged, and have thwarted the premise that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If you will just look back to yesterday, I pointed out that one of the biggest problems I saw with the criminal justice system was "jurors not taking the presumption of innocence seriously, and voting guilty unless the defendant proves he is actually innocent." This has become the way of the nation, in our modern world as every news forum desperately seeks something newsworthy to report. Tainting the vast majority of prospective jurors by trying a person in the court of public opinion is too often a force that can never be overcome by even the best defense attorney.

Posted by Tiger at April 26, 2003 06:24 PM