Guilty until proven Innocent – justice in America?
If you thought they were independent of one another – think again.
Innocent until proven guilty – it’s a hallmark principle of the American justice system, which is lately often shoved aside. This starts with the vigor of some of the arrests.
“Young African black and brown subjects being shot down on the street. In an obsessive kind of way. Fifty shots, sixty shots, lying on our stomach, in our back, as we flee – run or walk” says M1 from rap group Dead Prez.
This is also reflected in the baiting of suspects into offenses in cases of entrapment.
“Entrapment is not legal. Entrapment is getting someone to do something that they wouldn’t normally do,” says former FBI agent James Wedick.
Perp walks that parade suspects in handcuffs for the world to see also undermine the principle of presumption of innocence, with people often assuming guilt when they see anyone handcuffed and escorted by officials.
The media frenzy devouring some cases and not others also influences this perception.
“I find the media to be full of s**t!I think it’s guilty until proven guilty in these cases. Our government is changing the laws,” says Alicia McWilliams, aunt of a Newburgh 4 case member.
Sam Antar is a former white collar convict who knows the criminal justice system’s discrepancies inside and out.
“I had lied under oath for two years covering up my crimes! When I decided to cooperate with the feds, it took the feds two more years to de-brief me,” he says.
Now a teacher, he says media coverage also affects the jury pool.
“They see an image of a guy in handcuffs, they see an image of a person being arrested, they see an image of a person doing the perp walk, and they’re affected just like anybody else – because we’re all human beings”.
So, are you really presumed guilty from the get-go and how much of a role does the media play?
“Let’s face it – if you’re accused of a heinous crime, it’s going to be in huge headlines on Page 1. When you’re exonerated, it’s Page 27 below the fold, two inch column, and your neighbors somehow didn’t manage to catch it that day, so everyone still thinks you are a child molester,” says editorial columnist Ted Rall.
Take the not guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony murder case involving her two year old daughter. The court of public opinion remains split from the court of justice. All thanks to non-stop media coverage of the case for the past three years.
“She was found not guilty? Wow! That’s crazy,” says one New Yorker.
“I think it’s crazy, I think she definitely did it,” says another.
“From the media I assumed she was going to be guilty,” echoes a third.
In the case of former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn – the media satisfied their gluttonous taste with extreme passion – only for the case to crumble.
“I think there should be a law that media outlets are required to play your exoneration up as big and as long as your accusation,” says Rall.
This is rarely the case. As dubious practices in the criminal justice system spread, so does the finger pointing and questioning the future of human rights in the US.
“Where are we going as Americans? I am 51 years old, and I am like oomph! This is getting ugly. This is really getting ugly,” says Alicia McWilliams.
The principles that the United States once prided itself in are under fire. Suspects are having to fight their battles publically from the minute of their arrest, underlining that the discrepancies in the US criminal justice system are alive and kicking.
Political commentator Michael Haltman says that the mainstream media is only delivering what they know they can profit off of. Speaking to RT about the Casey Anthony trial, Haltman says it fill the bill perfectly of what Americans want.
"It had a little bit of everything and fit people's interest, and the media knew that because the ratings told them," he says.
Haltman adds that as long as a story "has the pieces of the puzzle that the American public wants to watch," than the mainstream networks will broadcast it. In the case of the Anthony trial, you had a young child, a young mother, a missing body and lying to police.
"It had every aspect of a crime show," says Haltman.
He says that the American public could be focused on much more, "Whether it's jobs or whether it's the debt ceiling or a nuclear Iran."
Unfortunately, however, that isn't what the people are hungry for.