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Innocent Until Proven Guilty

 
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2014 06:21 pm
I'm interested in interrogating the durability of this tenet of law with respect to the specific case of rape accusations.

Given that we know the instances of false accusations of rape are exceptionally rare (as low as 3% according to one UK government report), isn't the standard of innocent until proven guilty a poor fit in this area? Innocent until proven guilty assumes an equalitarian utopia, which we very definitely do not inhabit.

Difficulties also abound when trying to conceive of how we could shift the burden of proof onto the accused, and what it would mean to treat most accusations as inherently credible or even binding.

Does anyone want to put forward other examples of the limitations of the innocent until proven guilty idea? Or suggest ways of navigating this area? Or does everyone want to disagree with my contentions?
 
Frank Apisa
 
  2  
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2014 06:38 pm
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:

I'm interested in interrogating the durability of this tenet of law with respect to the specific case of rape accusations.

Given that we know the instances of false accusations of rape are exceptionally rare (as low as 3% according to one UK government report), isn't the standard of innocent until proven guilty a poor fit in this area? Innocent until proven guilty assumes an equalitarian utopia, which we very definitely do not inhabit.

Difficulties also abound when trying to conceive of how we could shift the burden of proof onto the accused, and what it would mean to treat most accusations as inherently credible or even binding.

Does anyone want to put forward other examples of the limitations of the innocent until proven guilty idea?


In order for there to be "other examples"...there would have to be a first one.

Yours is not an example of such a limitation.

Until proved guilty...the person is, by definition, innocent under the law...whether absolutely guilty or not.




Or suggest ways of navigating this area? Or does everyone want to disagree with my contentions?
[/quote]
neologist
 
  2  
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2014 08:17 pm
@medium-density,
I'll just plain old disagree.
Besides false allegations, there are incorrect allegations.
And, it is several orders of magnitude better to allow a criminal to escape justice than to convict a person for crimes he/she did not commit.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2014 08:34 pm
@neologist,
Agree, and I'm still waiting for the actual report from a reliable source to substantiate this:
Quote:
(as low as 3% according to one UK government report),


Also, all those other examples kind of referred to.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2014 09:11 pm
@roger,
Even if it the report is reliable, I still think "innocent until proven guilty" should apply.

Imagine if you were accused of rape...
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 07:48 am
@neologist,
Yep. Our justice system tries (not always successfully, of course) to minimize errors. What do we replace 'innocent until proven guilty' with? 'Guilty because we feel like it'?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 01:03 pm
There is another important consideration, too. People have long had a "no smoke without fire" attitude; it is enough for many people to know that someone is accused to assume that the accused person is guilty. I was transcribing a manuscript journal written in 1831-32, and the author spoke of going to see a hanging in London. He described how the condemned man spoke feelingly of his innocence, and moved many in the crown to tears. He then dismisses the whole incident with the comment that of course he was guilty, or they wouldn't have been hanging him.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 02:26 pm
Are there democratic societies that do not follow "innocent until proven guilty"?

UK defamation law puts the burden of proof on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff. This seems like an example of guilty until proven innocent.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 02:35 pm
@wandeljw,
Mexico does not follow innocent until proven guilty.
0 Replies
 
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 04:33 pm
@wandeljw,
Standards of proof differ for civil cases vs. criminal cases.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 05:22 pm
@Frank Apisa,
Quote:
In order for there to be "other examples"...there would have to be a first one.

Yours is not an example of such a limitation.


If it's true that only a small minority of rape accusations are deemed false by police forces, and if it's true that there is chronic under-reporting of rapes by victims, and if it's true that the conviction rate for rapists is nonetheless astonishingly low, would these not constitute examples of limitations which follow (in part) from using the innocent until proven guilty principle?

My central point is that the presumption of innocence carries with it the presumption of an equal society. It says we can proceed on the presumption that everyone is as innocent as everyone else. Whereas it seems everyone is not as innocent as everyone else when it comes to issues of sexual assault. We actually have examples of the opposite of this principle at work in stop and search laws, which presume guilt in the cases of people of colour. So the principle is already not universally observed.

Obviously envisioning a replacement principle on which to base our system of law is not within my compass. I don't believe I have attempted it, nor will I. However I do venture the criticism(s) above and invite further discussion.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 06:49 pm
@medium-density,
Consider cases like the Central Park five, who served 13 years of hard time in prison for a rape that they didn't commit. These teenagers lost their youth, their friends, their chance to build a family and a career over more than a decade. It was lucky that they were found out. If you change the standards of that we use to incarcerate people, more innocent people will end up languishing in prison.

Can you imagine what losing 13 years of your life would do to you?

If you want to put me into prison, I want to be damn sure that I get due process no matter what the charge is.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 06:51 pm
@medium-density,
That's three 'ifs' in the first sentence. Sounds a little iffy if you get m drift.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2014 07:01 pm
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:

I'm interested in interrogating the durability of this tenet of law with respect to the specific case of rape accusations.

Given that we know the instances of false accusations of rape are exceptionally rare (as low as 3% according to one UK government report), isn't the standard of innocent until proven guilty a poor fit in this area?...

Congratulations on misunderstanding a millenium of western jurisprudence. Our justice system is based on the assumption that it is better to let several guilty people go free than punish one innocent person. What about that poor slob who looks guilty and has all the cards stacked against him but is actually innocent?
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 01:01 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
Can you imagine what losing 13 years of your life would do to you?


I'm not sure I accept that wrongful imprisonment is, as someone here remarked, several orders of magnitude worse than wrongful acquittal. How is a rape victim supposed to make a recovery when her or his rapist is either given the stamp of innocence by the state, or never arrested due to lack of evidence? A rape is a kind of life sentence in any case. I'm not sure there isn't equivalent injustice on both sides of the equation.

We rightly have a terror of being wrongfully convicted, that's plain to see from the reaction on this thread. I'm moved by this to ask whether we're sufficiently terrified by wrongful acquittal? After all it piles injustice upon injustice.
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 01:08 am
@roger,
Quote:
That's three 'ifs' in the first sentence. Sounds a little iffy if you get m drift.


Those ifs are uncontentious points in the debate on this issue, at least in the UK. I've read statistics which back them on many occasions, most recently in a summary of a report by the UK government published in 2005.

Not withstanding this, why not grant the ifs as true for the sake of argument? Would they constitute limitations of the principle at hand? If yes then it becomes a question both of the strength of the data I and others cite, and whether any possible alternative principle can be introduced to help process rape cases more effectively. More justly.

Perhaps not a replacement principle, but a mediating one?
roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 01:36 am
@medium-density,
Why not? Those ifs seem to be all you've got. You might as well be honest and substitute 'in my opinion'. Your opinions have failed to convince anyone.
0 Replies
 
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 06:46 am
@medium-density,
I wonder how your argument would morph if you were the one unjustly accused?
0 Replies
 
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 07:35 am
@medium-density,
medium-density wrote:

Quote:
In order for there to be "other examples"...there would have to be a first one.

Yours is not an example of such a limitation.


If it's true that only a small minority of rape accusations are deemed false by police forces, and if it's true that there is chronic under-reporting of rapes by victims, and if it's true that the conviction rate for rapists is nonetheless astonishingly low, would these not constitute examples of limitations which follow (in part) from using the innocent until proven guilty principle?


Once again...NO!

The presumption is a legal distinction, MD. It presumes until someone actually is found guilty by the judicial process prescribed...that person will be deemed innocent. Even if 99.9% of all people arrested and charged are found guilty...that presumption would make complete sense.



Quote:
My central point is that the presumption of innocence carries with it the presumption of an equal society.


The presumption of innocence carries with it the notion that until a person is actually convicted of a crime by the methods prescribed by law...that person should be presumed to be innocent. It says absolutely nothing about an "equal society"...whatever you suppose that to mean.


Quote:
It says we can proceed on the presumption that everyone is as innocent as everyone else.


It most assuredly does not. It merely says that until someone is actually convicted of a crime by the methods prescribed by law...that person should be presumed to be innocent.



Quote:
Whereas it seems everyone is not as innocent as everyone else when it comes to issues of sexual assault.


You can substitute "murder" for "sexual assault" in your sentence here, MD...and it would read the same. Obviously some are guilty and some not...but the law, correctly in my opinion, demands that we consider the person innocent until proven guilty.

Quote:
We actually have examples of the opposite of this principle at work in stop and search laws, which presume guilt in the cases of people of colour. So the principle is already not universally observed.

Obviously envisioning a replacement principle on which to base our system of law is not within my compass. I don't believe I have attempted it, nor will I. However I do venture the criticism(s) above and invite further discussion.


I'll be happy to discuss this with you for as long as you like...because the presumption of innocence makes lots of sense to me...and, respectfully as possible, your arguments against it do not.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2014 07:41 am
@medium-density,
First of all, I don't think rape is unique in this discussion. If someone kills one of my kids, I will also suffer for my life. Under our justice system, this person is also innocent until proven guilty.

Second, I actually think your opinion, that we should be more willing to convict people with less evidence, is a reasonable one although I don't share it. It is a subjective decision and different societies have different opinions. But Innocent until proven guilty is a part of our culture.

Third, when we wrongfully imprison someone, it is the State that is doing the injustice. I have a special problem with this because in this case the wrong (stealing someone's freedom) is being done in my name.
0 Replies
 
 

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