General Question

Judi's avatar

Are we now guilty until proven innocent?

Asked by Judi (37642 points ) April 14th, 2009

I have heard a few stories and read a few articles about ”Melissa Huckabee The woman arrested for the murder of little Sandra Cantu in Tracy California. The only evidence I have heard against her is that she owned the suitcase the girl was found in. Yes that may be suspicious, but if that is all the evidence is that enough to to convict her? Will this woman ever be able to get a fair trial? Aren’t we innocent until proven guilty?
If the woman is guilty I will be the first to lock her away forever, but doesn’t everyone deserve the presumption of innocence?

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22 Answers

willbrawn's avatar

In the publics eye yes, dont think a little bit of evidence will hold up in court though.

Mr_M's avatar

What we know and what the police know are not necessarily the same thing. The police often keep info close to the chest so as not to ruin their case. With this woman, they also know she sexually molested the girl. Also, SHE brought up her stolen suitcase out of the clear blue sky to the police. When she did that, they suspected something was wrong. She also may have confessed.

Judi's avatar

Do they know SHE molested the girl? They know the girl was molested. We have convicted this woman in public opinion without hearing the evidence against her. That makes me sick and scared a bit.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

The only thing I can think of is that there is more evidence that the public isn’t aware of. I think the public also has a skewed perception of the legal and justice systems because of shows like Law and Order and CSI. Things aren’t quite that cut and dry in the real world; cases take months, not days, and there is more desk work than is shown on TV. We’ll see when it actually goes to court and a verdict is given. I think that they just haven’t publicized all the details of the case.

Judi's avatar

Should we be making judgement then? Without enough details to convict?

Mr_M's avatar

No one’s putting a gun to our head to make judgement. Some people will. Some won’t.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Much of the time when the police arrest someone, they believe they have a lot of evidence with which to make a charge stick and, as others have already pointed out, all of that evidence may not make it to the media until the trial. Plus, the DA also has to believe that there is enough evidence with which to prosecute or else she would not have been charged, otherwise it’s a violation of the 4th Amendment. Being arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty.

We’ll just have to wait until the trial to find out what they have on her.

ShauneP82's avatar

It would seem that way with the world in its current state. Men seem to feel that way most of all.

bezdomnaya's avatar

I don’t know anything about this case in particular, so I won’t say anything about it. I do think that because of the amount of media surrounding high profile cases nowadays that once someone is arrested (whether or not they are found guilty), they are presumed guilty by the public.

Usually though, a lot of care is taken to pick a location not near the location of the crime and censor the jury from these (sometimes mud-slinging) media reports. In that sense, the trial is meant to be as fair as can be. But we can all point out cases in which the defendant was found innocent, but the public sphere never forgave them: OJ Simpson, the Duke lacrosse players, etc.

Harp's avatar

I agree that this isn’t the way this process should work. Our tendency is to presume that the authorities are probably right, that they must have convincing evidence whether or not they’ve made it public. In a way, it’s a tribute to the overall respectability of our law enforcement authorities that we assume they’re doing their jobs well. But it’s still contrary to the spirit of our justice system. Until the evidence is presented and the defense heard, there must be a presumption of innocence.

It’s human nature, though, that when we’re outraged we desperately want a target for our anger. We latch onto the first credible target just because it’s so unsatisfying to have no one to hate for it.

Judi's avatar

I just watched Witch Hunt on MSNBC and that all happened in my town. Also read Mean Justice, which also happened here. I guess I just don’t completely trust Central California Law enforcement to look for the truth, rather than to just look for a conviction at any cost.

jessicar's avatar

Unfortantly in the publics eye as soon as they here something horrible happened expecially to a child whoever’s name might have done it then has done it. I think they are so outraged that this could happen that they dont care who they blame it on as long as they have someone so they have somewhere to direct all the anger and outrage.

DragonFace's avatar

I see everyone as guilty until proven innocent no matter what no matter who. Trust no one.

cwilbur's avatar

When you have trial by jury, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. When you have trial by media, the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and probably not even then.

Darwin's avatar

We don’t really know anything that isn’t in the media. There may be more to the police case than we know. All we can do is wait to see what comes out at trial.

As @cwilbur says, with trial by media, the accused is guilty until proven innocent.

MrItty's avatar

This is why the actual trial takes place, and people get their day in court – our public opinion and our pre-formed opinions are irrelevant. What matters is the evidence and arguments presented at trial. While it sucks for her (if she’s innocent) that the majority of the country will assume she’s guilty, she cannot and will not be legally convicted of anything until the jury reads its verdict.

casheroo's avatar

Everyone’s guilty in the eye of the media. And when proven innocent, they might get a little blurb in the news..

tonedef's avatar

What a suspicious question to be asking!

scamper scamper snitch snitch

galileogirl's avatar

We are only guaranteed the presumption of innocence in the eyes of the law. While we may not be legally punished without proof beyond reasonable doubt, the community members cannot be forced to accept that standard. We get to believe what our good sense leads us to believe. If someone wants to believe that the authorities pulled this woman out of a hat to be set up as chief patsy, that’s up to the individual. I think if the police just wanted to close the case there were a lot of better suspects including the local registered sex offenders. Even if she is found not guilty in court, that isn’t innocent. Some family members will always deny the accused’s guilt, and some community members won’t accept it either. It’s just too frightening to accept the fact that we cannot control the world around us. We can tell our children not to talk to the evil stranger and keep them safe. The majority of the time it is not the evil stranger that children are harmed by, it is the neighbor, the relative, the peer or the parent.

Some people may say not to be judgmental, but good judgment is a valuable thing-for ourselves and our children

Zuma's avatar

I’m afraid that the presumption of innocence only applies if you have a jury trial.

Nowadays 99% of all misdemeanors and 90% of all felonies are disposed of by plea bargain. Unless it is a capital case, or something very, very serious, it is simply too risky to take most cases to trial. The prosecutor will throw the book at you if you have the temerity to demand that they prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Sadly, juries are all too willing to convict on little or no evidence. All the prosecutor has to do is make the jury hate the defendant—which is often a slam-dunk proposition if the defendant is poor, or black or somebody “decent” people consider “riff-raff.” In most cases, the risks of losing if you go to trial are simply too great, especially since, in many places, the police are more than willing to lie under oath.

In a plea bargain, there is no presumption of innocence. Quite the contrary.

And I bet you thought you lived in a country where you had Constitutional rights, like the right not to incriminate yourself.

kyle94481's avatar

You’re only legally guilty until proven guilty in Lousiana :P.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. In spite of who the person is in general society has adapted that if a person gets picked up it has to be because the cops seen enough to arrest them, and they would not arrest anyone who was innocent. Also no one wants to see aguilty murderer get off. Society would rather see an innocent man spend life in prison or get the needle to the arm than to have someone who taken a life out there go on enjoying it after robbing a family of their loved one.

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