An innocent person, wrongfully accused is a real problem. We know it, in part thanks to post-conviction exonerations based on DNA and other physical evidence. Despite actual innocence, some juries have brought a guilty verdict. Researchers document hundreds such cases.
This reminds us that the legal system is a human enterprise. Though well-meaning, mistakes are inevitable over time.
When those mistakes are made, is it better to exercise caution to prevent the possibly guilty going free? Or should we cautiously prevent conviction and imprisonment of the possibly innocent? We now know that this is an either-or choice.
Constitutional law requires fairness. It reminds us to jealously guard against convicting the possibly innocent with:
- burden of proving any fact is on the prosecutor
- accused person begins the trial presumed innocent
- jury resolves any doubt to benefit the accused
A not-guilty verdict does not necessarily mean that the jury believed the person accused was actually innocent. A not-guilty verdict only means that the jury found reasonable doubt about some part of the prosecution’s case.
But in addition to their not-guilty verdict; some juries make a point to communicate that they strongly believe the defendant to be actually innocent.
Some of the famous exoneration cases followed guilty pleas, not trials. That surprises many. Why would an innocent person plead guilty, to a crime they did not commit?
Today’s criminal justice system is powerfully coercive. It puts enormous pressures on the innocent defendant to plead guilty, including:
- pretrial detention in jail (e.g., bail beyond reach)
- relaxation of laws protecting the accused (e.g. corroboration)
- “trial tax” for exercising “right” to trial of prosecution’s evidence
- severe sentences (e.g. Sentencing Guidelines, mandatory minimums)
Innocent on Trial
Even with these pressures, with the help of an expert sex crime defense attorney, the innocent should not plead guilty.
Instead, your defense lawyer must work hard to find a way to persuade the jury of the truth at trial. Sadly, history shows that innocence alone is not an effective defense to a rape accusation. After all, a jury convicted most people who were later exonerated.
The work begins when the person accused retains his defense attorney. Then we conduct fact investigation, pre-trial discovery, legal research, and form a case strategy. Trial preparation begins on day one, and continues at least until the trial.
With smart, hard work, we can find justice.
Big penalties; little evidence
In sex crimes prosecutions, much at stake: long prison terms, sex offender registration, etc. But typically the prosecution has little or no real, physical evidence.
Contrast: never let truth get in the way of a guilty story
Sex crimes carry the most severe consequences, but prosecutors routinely base charges on the least reliable evidence.
Traditionally, prosecutors would charge “the most serious, provable offense” based upon the evidence they thought they had. But in recent years, many have lowered their charging standards.
So now, some prosecutors only look for guilty inferences. And they close their eyes to the evidence of innocence. The truth may be inconvenient. So some develop an indifference to it.
And, along with minimal or unprofessional police and forensic investigation; these lower standards for prosecution result in cases built upon nothing but accusations. And these relaxed legal standards result in more false convictions of innocent people.
But an experienced sex crimes attorney can help you avoid an unjust conviction, and the big penalties that follow.
Adults & Children: accuse the innocent
Do adults and children lie, claiming to be “victims” when in fact they are not?
Or do they misdirect blame to a more convenient, though innocent party? Do they make false accusations? History has proven that they sometimes do.
And it happens every day. But an experienced sex crimes attorney put their story to the test.
“An Army of Devils is horribly broke in upon Salem which is the center, and, after a sort, the first born of our English settlements, and the houses of the good people there are filled with the doleful shrieks of their Children and Servants, Tormented by Invisible Hands, with Torture altogether Preternatural.”Cotton Mather, Prosecutor of Witches
“Better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person be condemned.”Increase Mather (father of Cotton), 1692 sermon to end the Witch Trials
Why a witness is an inaccurate historian
The answer may have more to do with the accuser than the accused or any relationship. The accuser’s hatred, mental health, or cognitive issues of perception, memory or judgment could be at the root. Even “coaching” of allegations, as in many high-profile cases of false accusations; could be to blame.
The real question is, “Where is the proof?” A person can say anything, make a claim, accuse. And anyone can point a finger. Moreover, many get rewarded for doing so.
But at common law, even in Biblical times; no conviction could be based upon mere accusations without corroboration, without real evidence.
And in recent cases, DNA evidence has unequivocally exonerated some after false convictions. So these cases show us how fragile the police and courts are; how easily we can be deceived by shock allegations.
Those juries convicted innocent people of crimes they did not do. But they were led to it by police, prosecutors, and judges.
And when bad evidence is fed to a jury; it’s “Garbage In, Garbage Out” — a sham trial.
Innocent: Right to present your defense
A sex crimes attorney must protect the right to a real jury trial. We must protect your right to present a defense. And we do so by getting courts to allow juries to see all the evidence.
The very foundation of liberty and democracy: The presumption of innocence requires us to hold the government accountable, to its burden of proof. Can they produce real evidence? We must resolve every plausible doubt in favor of the person targeted by the government. You have the right to legal counsel of your choice. And every juror, and every person, can enforce the other Constitutional laws protecting our Liberty, and Freedom from injustice.