Presumption of innocence

Well, it apparently doesn’t say we’re “innocent until proven guilty” in the Constitution. It does have this cute little bit about not being “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”, but hey, what does that mean? In 1895, the Supreme Court decided to step in and clarify the issue a little more:

The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law. [156 U.S. 432, 454] It is stated as unquestioned in the textbooks, and has been referred to as a matter of course in the decisions of this court and in the courts of the several states. […] Concluding, then, that the presumption of innocence is evidence in favor of the accused, introduced by the law in his behalf, let us consider what is ‘reasonable doubt.’ It is, of necessity, the condition of mind produced by the proof resulting from the evidence in the cause. It is the result of the proof, not the proof itself, whereas the presumption of innocence is one of the instruments of proof, going to bring about the proof from which reasonable doubt arises; thus one is a cause, the other an effect. To say that the one is the equivalent of the other is therefore to say that legal evidence can be excluded from the jury, and that such exclusion may be cured by instructing them correctly in regard to the method by which they are required to reach their conclusion upon the proof actually before them; in other words, that the exclusion of an important element of proof can be justified by correctly instructing as to the proof admitted. The evolution of the principle of the presumption of innocence, and its resultant, the doctrine of reasonable doubt, make more apparent the correctness of these views, and indicate the necessity of enforcing the one in order that the other may continue to exist.

Damn activist judges. 🙂