Presumption of innocence is overrated
One of the many downsides of instant communication and the now constant live coverage of law enforcement activities and court proceedings on television is that everyone in the country thinks they're sitting on a jury.
And as such, the concept of "presumption of innocence" has become something of a hybrid combining the 11th Commandment, 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and an addendum to the Miranda Warning and applies to everyone.
Folks, there is no 11th Commandment. There is no 28th Amendment. And some dude under arrest enjoys absolutely no constitutional right to the presumption of innocence by American citizens at large.
All a person charged with a crime is guaranteed by the Constitution is a speedy and public trial by an "impartial jury." As part of keeping the jury impartial, judges generally tell jurors that the future felon is to be presumed innocent until all the evidence is in. (Nudge and wink optional.)
That presumption doesn't apply to the rest of us. We can presume whatever the heck we want. And, from a basic survival standpoint, presumption of innocence not only isn't a good idea, it can be downright dangerous. It goes against every primordial survival bone in your body going back to caveman days, when survival depended largely on assuming the worst and running away very fast instead of presuming that large hairy thing hiding behind the rock wants to be your friend.
If word is circulating through the village that Moog is conking people on the head with a club, the smart thing is to presume Moog actually is conking people on the head and stay the hell away from him. The dumb thing would be to presume Moog innocent and invite him over for cocktails.
Nevertheless, expert talking heads on TV are constantly -- and most recently -- telling us that we are/were to presume the innocence of O.J. Simpson and Michael Vick and Paris Hilton and Al Gore's son (speeding in a Toyota Prius!) until they are/were proved guilty in court. (One legal eagle even claimed that we have to presume innocence until after all appeals have run! Charley Manson is innocent!)
They're wrong. We can presume any damn thing we want. I happen to presume O.J. is guilty of anything he's arrested for. I also initially presumed that Duke lacrosse players were guilty. So there you go. Presume at your own risk.
Now, it might be nice -- even sporting -- for the general citizenry to presume those charged with crimes are innocent until proved guilty. But it's not mandatory. We are not on the jury. Free speech trumps the presumption of innocence in the same way that freedom of assembly trumps the presumption that people who go to John Tesh concerts should automatically be detained at Guantanamo. Or something like that.
We are not a nation of jurors and should quit acting like it. Presume the worst, run fast and you'll usually be right.
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