While the rights to due process, appeals, access to courts, etc. are carried all the way to the top, the presumption of innocence, strangely, is not. According to appellate court decisions*, the presumption of innocence disappears upon appeal after conviction. The presumption of innocence is an important right that stems from the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments (quoted either in full or including relevant sections below).
NOTE: Updates are being added to this article to include other materials and references to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and case law. This is version 3. [7/14/2015 5:23 pm]
To see a case decision that goes on in length about presumption of interest, see: Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895). The full text of the decision can be found at Justia:
The Fifth Amendment is quoted below:
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.
The Sixth Amendment is quoted below:
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.
The relevant section of the Fourteenth Amendment, the first, is quoted below:
Section 1. 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.
The Seventh Amendment bars re-examination of the facts; the verdict of a jury declaring guilt is considered part of the fact-finding process of the jury. The Seventh Amendment is quoted below:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
What happens is that the concept of innocent until proven guilty becomes eliminated as soon as a jury convicts via a verdict until a defendant is vindicated upon final adjudication through appeal.
The lower trial courts, and sometimes even juries, make enough mistakes that the appellate courts have a heavy docket load. The GA Court of Appeals, allegedly, takes approximately 100 interlocutory appeals per year from various criminal courts across the state.
The preservation of the presumption of interest is in the public’s best interest because the presumption of innocence upholds the legitimacy of the court system; if people are finally vindicated at some of the highest levels of appeals, then forcing upon defendants the higher burden of overcoming a presumption of guilt is in defiance of the concept that State agents bringing an original case forward against a defendant must prove their case the whole way through appeals – the burden of proof should lie on the prosecution through the appellate process to defend its case upon any and all arguments and objections raised by defendants. Due Process rights should extend 100% of the way through the entire process, including appeals. The appellate process is designed to vindicate the truly innocent. Otherwise, we really don’t have a RIGHT – we have a license.
This argument is a theoretical argument that I have not seen anywhere else. If you like my position, please share this post and credit me for this argument.
– Amy Barnes