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img3In This Episode:

I pull back the curtain on the Presumption of Innocence. A defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent unless and until the prosecution proves his guilt in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

I discuss the law applying to the presumption, why the court is required to instruct the jury on it, as well as the origin of the concept and the ways it is sometimes eroded in courtrooms across the country.  I also answer the question about why it is necessary to apply the presumption of innocence even in cases where the guilt of the accused might seem patently obvious.


I offer tips for making your point in any persuasive presentation with the use of analogy and why its so important for the analogy to be dead-on to the point you are making as well as topical to your audience.


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  1. Maybe I’ve been tainted by watching too much TV, which is why I don’t watch the talking heads and especially the fictional shows, but I’ve always had the impression that the opposite is true, right down to the word “defendant”, which to me implies that the person in question has to prove something contrary to what’s being said. Certainly law enforcement works from the starting point that you’re guilty, and a prosecutor’s job seems not to be so much convicting a person who committed a crime as much as just getting a conviction. It always worries me that with all the arguing back and forth about what’s admissible and what’s being objected to and what is sustained, a prosecutor — and a defense lawyer too — can say ANYTHING in their closing arguments. For instance, Johnny Cochrane, I believe, is who got O.J. off, not through presenting and arguing evidence, but with stage tactics in his final argument.

    • I agree it can seem like there is a lot of gamesmanship in trial, but there are rules about what is allowed and what is not in testimony and closing arguments. Judges enforce those rules to varying degrees and those rules vary from state to state and from state to federal cases as well. I don’t think one can judge the criminal justice system by the OJ Simpson trial, too many factors outside that trial (the unprecedented media coverage, celebrity, race issues in Los Angeles, the reputation of the LAPD) were at play to be able to say that case was somehow representative of a typical criminal case (but I understand your point). I also agree about the terminology issue and I think many people overlook this issue. In the last several years for instance, there have been efforts in many trials to not refer to the complaining witness as a “victim” in cases where the defense is that the witness is lying about the incident (as opposed to a whodunit) as the word “victim” really gets to the ultimate issue that the jury is there to decide. I have not heard of a case where the lawyers have argued about the use of the word “defendant” to refer to the client, but I see your point and I think it could imply a status as one who has something to prove. Thanks for your comment.

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