Sunday, July 22, 2007
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights postulates that all people are innocent until proven guilty... This is one of the most fundamental principles of the American criminal justice system... Yet it has lost its meaning... As a public defender questioning prospective jurors I could not get a decent response to my question, 'What does it mean to you to be innocent until proven guilty?' On a daily basis hundreds of cases end at the plea bargaining stage and only a few go to trial... That makes judges, district attorneys and criminal defense attorneys become somewhat cynical about the concept... 'Is your client really innocent?' That is the question I was posed from many lay persons as well as my professional opponents... A case that receives any sort of publicity is even in a worse shape. Once someone's name is associated with criminal charges and is coined with 'Defendant', that person is basically doomed in the eyes of the public... Remember what happened to Michael Jackson... Then a criminal defense attorney who tries to talk about 'innocence until proven guilty' is viewed as a clown... But what is the most scary is when the attorney loses trust in the client and stops believing in the 'innocence until proven guilty.' An attorney who does not believe in her client cannot passionately advocate for that client's rights.