Presumption of Innocence

Apologies for my absence last week. After the shitshow that was the Kavanaugh hearing and his subsequent confirmation, I took a mini vacation to visit a friend (read: I was having sex). Now that I’m back, I have a few thoughts I need to share about the situation.

We’ll start with presumption of innocence, or, the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty. According to the mighty oracle Wikipedia, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and an international human right under the UN. Under presumption of innocence, it is the prosecution’s job to provide evidence of the defendant’s guilt to the trier of fact (a judge or jury). The trier of fact must only consider evidence presented in court. If there is any reasonable doubt concerning the defendant’s guilt, the defendant must be acquitted. Presumption of innocence is not explicitly cited in the US Constitution, though it is heavily implied in the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments.

Those are the protections presumption of innocence offers. Here’s what it does not: the same protections in civil cases in some states – both sides must issue proof. Presumption of innocence does not protect one from an investigation when one has been accused of a crime – as a matter of fact, the investigation is a protection in and of itself. The idea is so that things like witch burnings don’t happen. Presumption of innocence does not protect one against being accused of wrong-doing. It does not protect one against public opinion. If a high-profile figure, like, say, a Supreme Court Justice nominee, is accused of something like sexual assault, the general public is free to form their opinions based on those accusations. Presumption of innocence does not protect one from further judgment if one reacts to the accusations like a twelve-year-old.

Not that I’m talking about Kavanaugh. Not that I’m talking about Kavanaugh at all.

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