Friday, September 28, 2018

Presumption of Innocence and Due Process

Dear Friends,

As most of my regular readers know, my first degree was in the Administration of Justice, Criminal Justice. The one thing that I will always take away from those classes is the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty and that we are guaranteed due process. That is a big deal that many people in other nations only wish they had. 

It is defined as this, "Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual person from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due process violation, which offends the rule of law."

Americans being accused of crimes have certain guarantees. These guarantees are found in the Constitution of the United States.  In fact, the 6th Amendment states: 

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

These guarantees give rights to Americans being accused of crimes, including the right to have witnesses in your favor, to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.

We have the right to demand evidence. We have to demand that our accusers present real factual evidence and not just hearsay, imaginings, suppositions, conjecture, speculations, and mere allegations. Merely saying something happened doesn't cut it. Our accusers have to prove it. 

An allegation is a "claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof."

Being falsely accused is having an allegation that is completely false leveled against you. It has to do with an event that may be alleged to have taken place but in fact did not occur. False allegations, like that of false accusations "allegation that is completely false, in that the events that were alleged did not occur. An allegation that describes events that did occur, but were perpetrated by an individual who is not accused, and in which the accused person is innocent."

In America, the presumption of innocence is at the root of American Justice. The principle is that a person is considered innocent unlit proven guilty. The responsibility to prove that a crime has been committed is on the person making the accusations, not on the person being accused.

Under our system, because we believe in the presumption of innocence, the legal burden of proof is on the prosecution to demonstrate. The prosecution is wholly responsible for collecting evidence and presenting a compelling case to a jury or a judge who is "the trier of fact."

Our system is setup to stop Americans from being charged with a crime, or crimes, based on allegations and not factual evidence that has been determined to be true. It is setup so that an innocent man or women does not suffer prosecution based on innuendo and conjecture, rumors, lies, and fake claims. 

In America, the accused is presumed innocent. And in court, the prosecution is responsible for proving that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But if any reasonable doubt exists, then the accused must be found innocent of the charges.

For us, in the administration of justice, Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895) set the standard be enforcing what is found in the Constitution of the United States, 5th, 6th, and the 14th Amendments. This appellate case went before the United States Supreme Court in 1895. The result was that this case established the presumption of innocence of persons accused of crimes for Americans.

It stated, "The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.

Concluding, then, that the presumption of innocence is evidence in favor of the accused, introduced by the law in his behalf, let us consider what is 'reasonable doubt.' It is, of necessity, the condition of mind produced by the proof resulting from the evidence in the cause. 

It is the result of the proof, not the proof itself, whereas the presumption of innocence is one of the instruments of proof, going to bring about the proof from which reasonable doubt arises; thus one is a cause, the other an effect."

According to the Constitution of the United States, the 5th Amendment states:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

According to the Constitution of the United States, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

So has the function of "presumed innocence" always worked? No. Has everyone been given the due process of the law as they are entitled by our Justice System? No. 

For more than 40 years, I've read about and researched hangings and lynchings in American history, but primarily what took place between 1865 to 1941. Why these dates? It's because I've always been interested with American History of the Old West and the era we know as the Great Depression. 

The distinction between a hanging and a lynching is that a hanging is a court ordered execution and the other is conducted outside the law. Hangings during that time period were executions being carried out by the law after the person was convicted after being afforded all due process. In the vast majority of lynchings, the person being lynched usually received no due process at all. 

After the Civil War, militant arms of the Democratic Party in the South were created. They created the Ku Klux Klan and other militant organizations meant to terrorize freed slaves, Republicans, and Catholics there at the time. Their terrorist tactics employed at the time included lynchings. 

White Democrats attacked both black and white Republicans and Catholics to suppress voting, and to regain political power. It was all about political power. During the elections there in 1868, Democrats are said to have been responsible for murdering about 1,300 voters across the South. In most cases, the people they murdered were lynched as a warning to others. The intimidation worked. People stayed away from the polls and didn't vote for fear of being killed. Democrats regained political power.

Democrats used lynchings as a way to intimidate and coerce freed slaves and Republicans. While voting was not seen as a option, the National Rifle Association stepped forward to arm those blacks and whites being attacked. Though formed to encourage shooting among all Americans, in 1871 the National Rifle Association helped to stem the tide of lynchings and other violence by arming freed blacks and other Americans being terrorized in the South. The previous year, President Ulysses S. Grant worked with Congress to pass the Enforcement Acts of 1870. That was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1871 which was also called the "Ku Klux Klan Act."

With Democrats in political power, it is believed that there were 50 to 100 lynchings annually from 1868 to 1876. While the numbers were never again that great, lynchings of blacks in the South would not cease until the 1960s. 

While those lynchings of blacks, Republicans, and Catholics, were motivated by race, political party, and religion, lynchings regarding criminals were taking place as well.

But please, don't think the South was the only place where illegal hangings, lynchings were taking place. From lynching crooked politicians in San Francisco in 1851, to hanging a crooked Sheriff in Montana in 1864, to lynching of a freed black man in Ohio in 1877, to North Dakota's last lynching in 1931, the West is filled with stories of such acts. According to one source, the Tuskegee Institute, they estimate that 4,743 people were lynched in the United States as a whole between 1882 and 1968. Of that number, there were Blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, Indians, and Catholics that were lynched. Also, of that, 1,297 were listed as "Whites." So a quarter of them were "Whites."

While the South is believed to have had many lynching, it may be a surprise to most that California had more lynchings than the entire South from 1848 to 1933. The California Gold Rush saw a great number of lynchings. As for the last lynching in California, it took place in 1933 when 22 year old Brooke Hart was kidnapped and murdered by Thomas Thurmond and John M. Holmes. A mob stormed the Sheriff's Office in San Jose, California, and lynched Thurmond and Holmes. 

This was not as usual as in many cases, citizens have taken men who were convicted and afforded due process away from their confinement in jails and lynched them. In those cases, citizens didn't feel as though their penalties matched their crimes and they felt the need to remedy the wrong was to take the convicted person and lynch them. 

In the case of Killer Jim Miller in Ada, Oklahoma, a lynch mob had enough of him breaking the law and being acquitted on technicalities like witnesses too afraid to testify. The Daily Ardmoreite numbered the mob at 200 while an Eastern reporter for the Associated Press numbered the mob at 30 to 40. 

They broke into the jail at around three o'clock in the morning on April 19th, 1909, and dragged Miller and three others out. The mob took them to an abandoned barn, actually a livery stable behind the jail. Miller and the others were lynched and left hanging for hours until a photographer was found to record what took place.

Of course, other cases of lynchings of what were believed to be outlaws were not as noble as lynching a bonafide assassin of Miller's status. Most lynchings were examples of a mob taking over and disregarding our justice system altogether. In that case, all of the pleading for witnesses on his behalf, all of the cries for an impartial jury, all of the begging to see the evidence goes for naught as the person is taken out and lynched. 

George Johnson's gave marker in Tombstone Arizona's Boothill says, "Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we were wrong. But we strung him up and now he's gone." 

The story goes that George Johnson was hanged for being in possession of a stolen horse. It was found out later that he bought the horse while not knowing that the horse was in fact stolen. When the authorities found Johnson, there was a rush to judgment and they hanged him.

Those who lynched George Johnson found out later that they lynched an innocent man. No one was ever prosecuted for hanging an innocent man. If the people there knew who did it, they didn't turn them in. No one wanted to try, or even accuse those that murderers an innocent man, because they were complicit in the deed.

It was as if it simply did not matter to the people in Tombstone that an innocent man was lynched. And there sits the problem with lynch mobs; everyone in a lynch mob is part of the killing. By association, even if they themselves didn't put the rope around the victim's neck, they are part of the injustice.

Though people knew who did it, no one was ever made to account for what they did. It's as if it was OK in the sense that George Johnson's life didn't matter.
Frankly, we see that when they accused and killed him for something that he didn't do -- yet they wouldn't come forward to admit guilt in accusing a good man of a crime.

As for Johnson, he was not afforded any of his rights under the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. For the people of Tombstone, the presumption of innocence and due process meant nothing to them.

While I really understand lynching a known assassin such as Killer Jim Miller, I can't help but wonder why the people of Tombstone didn't take it upon themselves to find out if George Johnson really stole that horse or not before hanging him? Did life mean so little to the people there? Was that why they saw Johnson's life as cheap and meaningless?

It makes me wonder whenever I see bullies and thugs beating up on others, hurting others, accusing others of things they have not done -- or accusing others of things that there is zero proof of them doing. Yes, like these days with allegations assailed at Judge Brett Kavanaugh who is being confirmed as a Supreme Court Judge.

He has been attacked with all sorts of false accusations all meant to ruin his life. And yes, it is extremely obvious that the mob of Democrats accusing him of such false claims see Kavanaugh's life as meaningless and cheap.

His attackers are proving they don't care that our justice system is based on someone being innocent until proven guilt and not the other way around.

As for George Johnson back in 1882, someone in Tombstone must have cared enough to at least admit to their lynching of George Johnson as a "mistake" since someone said as much on his headstone. So will Judge Kavanaugh's attackers admit to the same thing later when they too find out that they have ruined a man's life, lynched him on television in the court of public opinion, when he was not guilty of anything other than being a Republican?

To me, I believe that like most of those in Tombstone who knew that they did wrong by lynching an innocent man in 1882, the Democrats on the confirmation hearing this week will never say a word of apology or regret as to what they have done to a good man. Instead, they will remain silent as those who lynched Johnson for no reason back in the day.

Tom Correa