Interesting video by FIRE on the Presumption of Innocence

And until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be even-handed. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices.
Jake Brigance

I recently stumbled upon this video by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: “Presumed Guilty: Due Process Lessons of the Duke Lacrosse Case“. It’s … gut-wrenching to see that lynch-mobs have adapted to the 21st century and want to throw the presumption of innocence out of the window. The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle, one without which I would probably opt out of civilization. And because the crimes the students were accused of are universally regarded as so extremely heinous, it’s even more important to adhere to it.

And on a personal note, I don’t see why some people consider the presumption of innocence as “victim blaming”. If it’s a mix-up, neglecting the presumption of innocence not only creates another victim — an innocent person who goes to jail and whose life is ruined — it also protects the actual criminal, who will likely harm others as well. People who commit these crimes are a tiny minority, which should be removed from society. And no matter the hurt, it does not give a victim the right to harm innocent people. If it was a false accusation (like in the case in the video), the person making the accusation was not a victim, the one accused is — and like in the mix-up, given the heinous nature of the crime, this person’s life is ruined. If it did happen, then shouldn’t the criminal be found guilty and severely punished based on convincing evidence (beyond reasonable doubt)? And like cases like these show, this has to be more than an accusation. There’s a good reason why people who are the victim of a crime (or their friends/relatives) do not sit in the jury determining guilt or innocence.

Update: I forgot one thing — doesn’t a presumption of innocence assume that the accuser is lying? Nope. There is a difference between taking an accusation seriously enough to start an investigation and convicting a person based on an accusation alone. And yes, that can be feel like betrayl if one is not automatically believed to tell the truth. But it would also be a case of extreme inequality where the word of one person is worth more than the word of another person. The accuser should (and usually is) believed “enough” to start an investigation. Which should be done by professionals like with any other crime. And whether the evidence is sufficient to convict a person is something an impartial jury has to decide.

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