General Question

kenmc's avatar

Is it better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one?

Asked by kenmc (11773points) June 21st, 2009

From the Voltaire quote.

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23 Answers

Tink's avatar

Yes always

Darwin's avatar

Yes. Especially if someone you care about is the innocent one. Typically, a guilty person will do something else bad and you’ll get another shot at him/her. But to condemn an innocent person is the same thing as letting the guilty person have at them.

Life isn’t fair, but we can at least tip the balance a little bit so as not to destroy a good person’s life. A bad guy’s life is already a mess.

lillycoyote's avatar

That’s what many people, including myself, believe. See Blackstone’s Formulation or, as is mentioned in the article, as Chief Wiggum states, “I’d rather let a thousand guilty men go free than chase after them.” :) (just kidding on that last one). Also, condemning an innocent person for a crime they did not commit is not only a grave injustice but it allows the person who actually did commit the crime to go free, another grave injustice.

Judi's avatar

Yep. That’s what our founding fathers thought anyway. That’s why “beyond a reasonable doubt.” is part of the criminal jury instructions.

kenmc's avatar


Then why Guantanamo? Why the war on “Terror”?

Judi's avatar

@boots ; most of us have been wondering the same thing. To declare “War on Terror” is about as useful as declaring “war on Drugs.” How we doin’ on that front?
Terror is not something to “war against.” One person can do one stupid thing and then you’ve lost the war. Terror is something to “guard against.”

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@boots I was never behind Guantanamo or the War on Terror. I called my congressional reps many times to tell them this in 2003 before they invaded Iraq.

Bluefreedom's avatar

Never condemn the innocent and always hope that the most proper and effective jurisprudence is being utilized when prosecuting the guilty and handing down punishments.

As far as the War on Terror is concerned, this was a manifestation of the previous Bush administration which still leaves a bad taste in so many people’s mouths (mine included). There are so many question marks and perceived injustices surrounding Guantanamo Bay and the War on Terror that all the facts and revelations about what is and has occurred may never be known. It is a sad and difficult situation on many levels.

filmfann's avatar

Reasonable doubt doesn’t mean without any doubt.
We can still incarcerate those we are REASONABLY sure are guilty.

sanari's avatar

@filmfann: That is absolutely incorrect, in the worst way. No one can be incarcerated if there is even one iota of doubt. You cannot incarcerate individuals based on “reasonably sure” – because the burden of proof is on the accusing party.

Here, go and learn something about burden of proof.

If you are going to be patriotic, at least know the law of your own country.

filmfann's avatar

@sanari It is you who is wrong. I have been on a jury, and through the court system. I know what the law is, and how it is applied. One iota of doubt would stop most, if not all convictions.
Let’s say Jimmy was shot in a drive by. He recognized the driver, the car, and the shooter. The driver and shooter are arrested. They say there must be someone else who looks like them, maybe clones. They say clones would explain the DNA link to the weapon. They explain the weapon just happens to match the bullet.
Anyone would say they are reasonably sure these kids did it, but there is an iota of doubt. You just let them go free.

sanari's avatar

No one can be incarcerated if there is even one iota of doubt.

Reading comprehension ftw.

filmfann's avatar

Your link doesn’t say that.
But it does say this:
the proposition being presented by the government must be proven to the extent that there is no “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a reasonable person that the defendant is guilty. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a “reasonable person’s” belief that the defendant is guilty.
Maybe you need to look up what the word “iota” means.

sanari's avatar

The link is not my source. My words were my reply. The link is to a Wikipedia entry on the concept “burden of proof”. It’s merely used as an aside.

filmfann's avatar

And your words are dead wrong.

sanari's avatar

Let someone vouch for your opinion and then I will take another look at it.

filmfann's avatar

I just used YOUR link to prove MY argument.
How about you try to show your argument is correct?
you said: if you are going to be patriotic, at least know the law of your own country.
I have shown I do. Do you?

RareDenver's avatar

Yes, this is why I oppose the death penalty.

atlantis's avatar

Save the innocent; if the justice system sends the wrong signals then it is digging it’s own grave and taking with it all those that depend upon it.

jeanna's avatar

@filmfann lurve for your great answer with the reasonable doubt.

It’s amusing the arguments regarding the term “doubt.” It would certainly seem that the definition for “reasonable doubt” as should be applied in a court of law has been missed by a few folks.

As for an answer to the question, I cannot say that I absolutely agree. I am against the death penalty, but I won’t say I agree 100% with the above responses. I like to base my decisions on a case by case basis, and the idea of reasonable doubt is one that has always plagued my life.

Blondesjon's avatar

Nobody was ever promised a fair life.

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