• Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    I've been thinking about the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty'.

    Recently, there have been a lot of examples of trail by public opinion. There has also been talks of simply believing people who claim to be victims when they come forward. Which makes me ponder on how should we set up the law.

    If we presume innocence in everyone until sufficient evidence is presented to prove guilt, it is more likely that guilty people will get away with crimes, but much less likely that we punish innocent people for crimes they did not commit.

    On the other hand, if work on a guilty until proven innocent basis, as would be the case if we believe accusations based on the testimony of the victim alone without sufficient evidence, then the guilty are much less likely to get away with the crime, but innocent people are almost certainly going to find themselves being punished despite being innocent.

    Keep in mind, in this hypothetical, when you release the guilty people you can't be 100% sure whether or not they are actually guilty... and the same can be said about punishing the innocent, you can't be 100% sure.
    1. which is worse: (3 votes)
        punishing 4 innocent people in order to make sure 1 guilty person doesn't get away with it
        100%
        realising 4 guilty people in order to make sure 1 innocent person isn't punished.
          0%
    2. should the law be set up: (3 votes)
        In favour of innocent until proven guilty
        100%
        or guilty until proven innocent
          0%
  • tim wood
    2.2k
    Subject to correction I believe in France and Japan it's guilty, based on the supposition is that prosecutors know their job.

    My view is that if prosecutors know the defendant is guilty and have evidence of same, it should not be hard to make the case. Innocent until proven guilty thus seems like a mild and reasonable standard. And I am not persuaded the punishment itself is both beginning and end of the matter, but that the conviction itself matters.

    I do not know exactly where innocent until proven guilty came from. I should. We all should. But it's easy enough to imagine. The innocent should not be convicted, nor the guilty released. But either (in principle) is just a mistake. Attempting a systems' fix instead would corrupt the system itself - no one can want that.
  • DingoJones
    718
    I think the answer depends on the crimes.
    Assuming they all committed the same crime, it would depends on the severity. Id rather run the risk of a few more thieves walking the streets than muderers walking the streets.
    Having said that, I think its pretty clear that punishing four innocent people to get one guilty person would be absurd. There would be vastly more innocent people in jail or being punished. (Again, severity could change that).
    The way the system is set up now has the right idea.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    My view is that if prosecutors know the defendant is guilty and have evidence of same, it should not be hard to make the case.tim wood

    Yeah I think the thing that makes it difficult is that some cases can be thrown out if it is shown that there is the possibility of reasonable doubt. And reasonable doubt can be argued into pretty much any situation if your lawyer is good enough.

    Innocent until proven guilty thus seems like a mild and reasonable standard.tim wood

    I agree

    And I am not persuaded the punishment itself is both beginning and end of the matter, but that the conviction itself matters.tim wood

    what do you mean?

    I do not know exactly where innocent until proven guilty came from. I should. We all should. But it's easy enough to imagine. The innocent should not be convicted, nor the guilty released. But either (in principle) is just a mistake. Attempting a systems' fix instead would corrupt the system itself - no one can want that.tim wood

    I think the reason is that if it wasn't based on innocent until proving guilty, and every one was aware of that, it would be very easy to take advantage of that, and I assume if the possibility arose people would begin to take that liberty. I know this has been the case for millennia. Ancient Jewish scripture in particular has very stringent conditions for proving guilt. And as far as I'm aware its the case in most cultures.

    I agree that it should be innocent until proven guilty. I think the problem were having with modern culture is that conditions have changed dramatically. In the past, societies were much more conservative and enacted ways of being to try and prevent circumstances from arising that would be difficult to prove. So for example, women not being allowed to be left unattended with men that they aren't related to or married to. This was likely because if rape was to occur, in such times it would have been near impossible to prove, and so even if the perp was guilty he'd likely get away with it, and so you wouldn't be willing to put people in the circumstances where the possibility of that kind of thing could occur.

    These are just a bunch of assumptions though. What are your thoughts?
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    or guilty until proven innocentMr Phil O'Sophy

    How would that work? Lock everyone up and then let them appeal?
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    I think the answer depends on the crimes.
    Assuming they all committed the same crime, it would depends on the severity
    DingoJones

    Yeah it makes sense that the circumstances may effect how we think about the case.

    Id rather run the risk of a few more thieves walking the streets than muderers walking the streets.DingoJones

    but the punishment for murder is life. Putting an innocent person away for life because your scared they might be guilty seems unreasonable.

    Having said that, I think its pretty clear that punishing four innocent people to get one guilty person would be absurd.DingoJones

    yeah it would be absurd. What I meant was that factually they would be innocent, but that we wouldn't know. We would be assuming they were guilty because they couldn't prove their innocence rather than assuming them innocent because the the prosecutor couldn't prove their guilt.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    How would that work? Lock everyone up and then let them appeal?unenlightened

    haha, well if someone had an accusation made against them, under such conditions they would be responsible for proving their innocence. They would be held until this could done.

    So for example, if a woman accuses a man of rape, the authorities would assume he did it, unless he could prove that he wasn't (he wasn't where the accuser said he was/there was witnesses/theres a video of them together which suggests the contrary).
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    if someone had an accusation made against them, under such conditions they would be responsible for proving their innocence. They would be held until this could done.Mr Phil O'Sophy

    So if you accuse me of theft, and I accuse you of malicious accusation, we are both locked up? I'm asking silly questions because it seems very odd as an idea, that an accusation would be sufficient to assume guilt. So my insurance company can accuse me of fraud whenever I make a claim? It just seems too arbitrary.

    Your example. A man lives alone, he has no witness that he was at home in bed any night, he is guilty of any rape he is accused of? I cannot make it add up to anything like justice at all.
  • DingoJones
    718
    but the punishment for murder is life. Putting an innocent person away for life because your scared they might be guilty seems unreasonable.Mr Phil O'Sophy

    It depends on the wideness of your “net”, as in how the innocent people are getting grouped with the one guilty. You specified 4:1 ratio I guess, but are we talking essentially random or are these people having a distinct connection? The ratio wouldnt be nearly that low if it was just “guilty till proven innocent” by a simple accusation.
    Scale as well, if 4 innocent people get put away for life and that allows us to insure a guilty person who stole a nuclear weapon to be used in a mass murder also goes away for life. Not a bad trade ar all.

    yeah it would be absurd. What I meant was that factually they would be innocent, but that we wouldn't know. We would be assuming they were guilty because they couldn't prove their innocence rather than assuming them innocent because the the prosecutor couldn't prove their guilt.Mr Phil O'Sophy

    Of course, its just the policy would be that innocent people will certainly outnumber the actual guilty.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k


    I guess thats the point. you're not asking silly questions, its perfectly reasonable.

    The whole controversy that's been stirred up with people taking years to come forward with their accusations of rape has led to this particular dilemma. Should we believe the victims despite the lack of evidence because of the length of time it took for them to come forward makes it difficult to produce?


    http://digg.com/2018/believe-christine-blasey-ford

    I quote:
    What I hope doesn't get lost in this sea of analysis is the simple fact that you should believe victims of sexual assault, especially women. There are many times in life in which you should be skeptical. A person telling you that they were sexually assaulted is not one of those times.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    You specified 4:1 ratio I guess, but are we talking essentially random or are these people having a distinct connection?DingoJones

    no I meant completely random. They would be unrelated cases. The point is just that if you have a justice system based on such principles and people begin taking advantage of it, its not unlikely that you'd put a lot of innocent people in prison. it wouldn't necessarily have to be 4:1, the point could be made with 1:1.

    Scale as well, if 4 innocent people get put away for life and that allows us to insure a guilty person who stole a nuclear weapon to be used in a mass murder also goes away for life.DingoJones

    lol starting to sound like the trolley problem. Something to think about.

    Of course, its just the policy would be that innocent people will certainly outnumber the actual guilty.DingoJones

    you gets me.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    I quote:
    What I hope doesn't get lost in this sea of analysis is the simple fact that you should believe victims of sexual assault, especially women. There are many times in life in which you should be skeptical. A person telling you that they were sexually assaulted is not one of those times.
    Mr Phil O'Sophy

    Who is 'You'?

    If it's the police, their job is to investigate allegations, and they should therefore believe them until they have reason to disbelieve. If it's the judge and jury, then it's a different rule and needs to be different. Sometimes, there are reasons of protection that justify precautionary action without deciding guilt or innocence - child protection, and arguably in the appointment of the judiciary. One decides many things other than criminal guilt or innocence on the balance of probabilities, and the balance of dangers. Certainly in the Kavanagh hearings I felt on the balance of probabilities there was good enough reason to not promote him. There was no question of convicting him of anything. I did believe Christine Blasey-Ford, but would never convict him on that evidence alone. Not promoting him is precautionary and neither a punishment nor a conviction.

    Incidentally, even with an innocent until proven guilty system, there are still innocent people convicted, especially in highly publicised and emotive cases. It's a great argument against the death penalty, that the dead cannot be freed on appeal.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    Who is 'You'?unenlightened

    I'm guessing the author of the article I post the link to is referring to the reader when they say 'you'. Which could be the police, the jury, the judge, the public. Whoever. The article makes it clear that skepticism isn't reasonable when it comes to accusation of sexual assault.

    again, I quote: "There are many times in life in which you should be skeptical. A person telling you that they were sexually assaulted is not one of those times."

    And its not like this isn't a popular opinion.

    I did believe Christine Blasey-Ford, but would never convict him on that evidence alone. Not promoting him is precautionary and neither a punishment nor a conviction.unenlightened

    this is a fair point. promotions are hardly obligatory rights.

    Incidentally, even with an innocent until proven guilty system, there are still innocent people convicted,unenlightened

    This is true, but its not nearly going to be as high as it would be had we adopt the opposing idea recommended by our article writing friend above.

    he says things like: "Hopefully science and statistics — recalling specific details of the worst moment of your life is not easy, and falsified rape allegations are exceedingly rare — will convince you otherwise."

    However, he fails to take note that these statistics are representative of a system which requires evidence in order to convict. Had we adopt his recommended system of removing skepticism under circumstances of sexual assault, then why should we assume that the statistics would remain the same in such respect? If the current system is difficult to take advantage off, and the new system is easy to take advantage off, it follows from this that false accusations would likely increase, and cease to be as rare as they were. The rarity of falsified rape allegations might in fact be the result of the system he is suggesting we abandon. Yet he shows no signs of even considering this.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Well I think rape and child abuse are very very difficult issues to deal with, and the law is not very good at dealing with them. We are still discovering as a society the extent of the connection between power and abuse, and how effectively it has been covered up and underplayed even by well meaning non-abusers. And we are still coming to terms with the sheer prevalence and extreme nastiness and the damage that is done.

    There is historically, a strong tendency to disbelieve women, children, poor people, and anyone disempowered. So I think the exhortation, the campaign to believe these people when they come forward as victims is important.

    Start here. If someone accuses me of rape, a serious crime has been committed. Either it is rape, or it an attempt to pervert justice. This is the situation of Kavanaugh and Blakey-Ford. And we cannot prove either crime. But the action taken does not hold to that balance. In dismissing one testimony and accepting the other, one is effectively deciding that Ford was attempting to pervert the course of justice - one is actively disbelieving her. I don't think there is any justification for this, and if anything I think there is somewhat more justification for disbelieving Kavanaugh.

    So if the 'you' is you and me, if it is society in general, including police, jurors, politicians, everyone, I think it is good advice, not a recommendation for changing the principles of justice, but to give more weight to the voices that lack power, not infinite weight, but more weight.
  • Waya
    984
    Agreed for the most part. Petty things can be more relaxed while severe things should be examined closely.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    In dismissing one testimony and accepting the other, one is effectively deciding that Ford was attempting to pervert the course of justice - one is actively disbelieving her. I don't think there is any justification for this, and if anything I think there is somewhat more justification for disbelieving Kavanaugh.unenlightened

    yeah I don't think that by upholding the system that people are innocent till proven guilty, and added to the fact that they have no substantial evidence to give, instantly means you've chosen not to believe her. It means that unfortunately we don't have direct access to the past, and one of the consequences of the world being the way it is, if people don't have evidence of a crime- regardless of whether we believe them or not- we can't convict people because on testimony alone it sets a bad precedence, and my belief on the matter is not important; what is important is what we know. And with no evidence, we know nothing for sure.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Well my point was that the senate pretended they were trying Kavanaugh, and ought to assume he was innocent, but not trying Ford, and did not owe her an equal assumption of innocence. His assumption of innocence only applies to his trial, if he would have had one, not to any civil process where they should both be on an equal footing. At his trial for sexual assault he should be found not guilty, and at her trial for perverting justice she should be found not guilty, but in all other procedures, one must be believed over the other on the balance of probability, because they cannot in fact both be innocent. In finding for Kavanaugh, they found against Ford, and the principle was used unfairly.

    I'm a philosopher not a lawyer, but I think this is how things ought to work. Imagine you are hiring a babysitter on the basis of the testimony given at the hearing. Who would you choose?
    Hiring a supreme court judge is more like hiring a baby sitter than a criminal trial - or should be.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k
    but in all other procedures, one must be believed over the other on the balance of probability, because they cannot in fact both be innocent. In finding for Kavanaugh, they found against Ford, and the principle was used unfairly.

    I'm a philosopher not a lawyer, but I think this is how things ought to work.
    unenlightened

    Thats fair enough. Not sure if thats what they did or not, I'd have to check it out at some point and see what I reckon. but regardless of the truth of the matter with this particular case you mention, your approach to it seems fair.
  • unenlightened
    3.5k
    Incidentally, Scottish law has a third option:- guilty, not guilty, and not proven. The legal effect is the same as not guilty, but it allows a certain venting of moral outrage 'we know damn well you did it but we can't prove it'.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    1.2k


    :rofl:

    Out of the country, the "not proven" verdict may be referred to as the Scottish verdict, and in Scotland itself it may be referred to colloquially as the bastard verdict,[6] which was a term coined by Sir Walter Scott, who was sheriff in the court of Selkirk. — wiki
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