U.S. Justice System Is Based On Innocent Until Proven Guilty – Is That Really the Case?
Our Justice system has been front and center for the last couple of years, but especially over the last six months both locally and nationally. The most visible cases right now are George Zimmerman and former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. In this piece, I want to focus on the basic premise of our Justice System and the notion of 'innocent until proven guilty' and in particular, Aaron Hernandez. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Hernandez is charged with murdering Odin Lloyd. As a result of the murder charges, Hernandez was cut from the Patriots, has been arrested and is currently in jail awaiting the next phase of his case.
In addition to being released, the Patriots have also extended an opportunity to fans to essentially turn in their Hernandez jerseys and exchange them for another. It was announced this morning that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is removing a photo of Hernandez high-stepping his way into the end zone against the Green Bay Packers.
Now, here's my question. Does all of that sound like innocent until proven guilty or is it more a case of guilty until proven innocent? We already know that in the court of public opinion, Hernandez is guilty and the only question that remains is whether he gets life in prison or a death sentence.
If the supposition of innocence until proven guilty is real, why did the Patriots react as they did and why is he or any other criminal who has not been tried, in jail? I understand the evidence suggesting their potential threat to society and the fact they could be a flight risk so, we keep them in jail until the case can be sorted out. Is jail for the innocent?
I am certainly not suggesting that he be freed until his trial, I am simply asking a question as it pertains to how our system of justice works. If someone is presumed innocent, it almost seems like they should be treated as innocent, doesn't it...so, why isn't he?
In the case of Hernandez, the evidence against him is strong enough that he was arrested, jailed and ultimately charged with murder and awaiting trial. Unless someone proves he is innocent, he stays in jail and possibly faces the death penalty. Even though the prosecution is charged with proving his guilt, the appearance is that he IS guilty unless his team can prove his innocence and get a jury to agree.
Zimmerman sat in jail awaiting trial as did O.J. Simpson. I am not saying that was wrong by any stretch, but I think we can all agree that would seem to be the opposite of the basic premise of our system, the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
Unless someone comes up with a different system, that IS our system and we have seen the system work and render decisions as in the case of both George Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson. Whether we agree with the decisions or not....the system worked the way it was designed to.
Juries do not have the luxury of making a decision based on what would be best for the communities, they have to make decisions based solely on evidence presented at trial and that can be a very difficult thing to do. I truly believe that all jurors really want to do the right thing.
I am not saying that people charged with violent crimes should be walking the streets before trial, but I do think it's high time for us to be a little more realistic about our system. If the evidence points to you...you will be arrested, charged and jailed. You will stay in jail unless you are proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be innocent, not the other way around. What do you think...is Hernandez presumed innocent or guilty?