PUBLISHED IN LAW OFFICER
A cornerstone of American juris prudence is the presumption of innocence. The government must prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Innocent until proven guilty. This applies to all defendants, even the most terrible.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that, under some circumstances, a court should issue jury instructions on the presumption of innocence in addition to instructions on the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt (Taylor v. Kentucky). A presumption of innocence instruction may be required if the jury is in danger of convicting the defendant on the basis ofextraneous considerations rather than the facts of the case.” (Farlex)
This key principle is essential for justice, a fair trial, and must be paired with an impartial jury.
Presumption of Innocence is absolute in any case whether regarding Charlie Manson, Ted Bundy, or any heinous criminal or a drunk driver or trespasser. The law remains, innocent till proven guilty. By law justice is blind.
“When a criminal defendant is prosecuted, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. If the jury—or the judge in a bench trial—has a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, the jury or judge should pronounce the defendant not guilty.” (Farlex)
Should there be no reasonable doubt the judge or jury would find the defendant guilty.
That assumes ALL evidence was presented fairly and all jurors or the judge free from any pressure or incumbrance to decide either way. In fact, prosecutors are mandated to turn over copies of all their evidence to the defense – including that which might prove the defendant innocent.
All of those provisions apply – unless the defendant is a police officer.
Today, police are presumed guilty till proven innocent.
Such a heinous approach to the law is driven by the media, politicians, and special interest groups like black lives matter or antifa. These groups have an agenda and they each have a bent against law enforcement. Their goal regardless of evidence is to present the officer as guilty from the very start.
Too often media shouts an unarmed man was “murdered” by police within the hour of the incident. Not waiting for investigation, they declare guilt, embraced by activists and politicians. Crowds gather, violence ensues. It does not matter that the facts reveal the officer was confronted by an armed suspect, or that the suspect refused lawful commands and approached the officer with a weapon. The damage is done. The lie already on national news. Truth is hidden. This is banana republic journalism and political manipulation.
Whether it’s media reports alleging the guilt and inferring wrongdoing, or a malicious prosecutor as the one in Atlanta, or Baltimore, or Nashville, who ignore the law and try the case in the court of public opinion using innuendo and presumption, their goal is to convict – not justice.
With the activist groups, they demand a guilty verdict and destroy cities to get their way. Their track record of burning businesses and government offices frighten those charged with maintaining the rule of law. City leaders pay millions to the family of the person killed by police before a trial begins – implying officer guilt regardless of evidence. Jurors are intimidated and recently media doxed the jurors specifically to intimidate them.
So the age old assurance that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty no longer seems to apply to those in law enforcement. The long standing mandate for a fair trial by a jury of peers no longer seems to apply for those in law enforcement. In a recent case a black lives matter supporter was on the jury hearing a case of a police officer charged with killing a suspect. Yet, no court would put a police officer on that same jury. Politicians inferred the right verdict and made veiled threats against jurors.
My question therefore is where is fairness? Where is the rule of law? When did the constitution no longer apply to those in law enforcement? The upshot of the inequity is recruitment of law enforcement is quite low leaving departments shorthanded. Police retirements are quite high adding two the shortage of trained law enforcement professionals.
We can no longer tolerate a system of justice that disregards constitutional protections of law enforcement, treating them like noncitizens. In fact, noncitizens get better treatment in courts than those in law enforcement.
We must return to a system of justice where each individual citizen enjoys the same constitutional rights. Make no mistake, anyone who violates the law should face the consequences, whether private citizen or law enforcement. There can be no exceptions because of profession. The same standard must apply to politicians as well.
Sadly, in a recent case, a top leader of a national law enforcement organization openly celebrated the verdict in a trial beset with doxing, prosecutorial manipulation of information, conflicting testimony, political interference, and threats to the jury. It was a politically expedient endorsement and not in the best interest of law enforcement. He received swift backlash. Law enforcement must stand united both for the innocent as well as accountability for the guilty, but not take a political out.
Such irresponsible support from a otherwise respected leader only serves to fuel the hate, the defund and disband movement, and stabs those serving honorably in the back.
Too often we see evidence presented against high ranking politicians that would be grounds for criminal action for private citizens or law enforcement. Yet investigations are swept under the rug and prosecutions fall by the wayside. We can no longer allow politicians or media to be exempt from the standards of law that Americans must live under. No one is above the law.
I write this because it is important for citizens in the United states to understand the manipulation of the legal system by activists, entertainers, media, and politicians to achieve a political end, dismantling law enforcement. We can no longer allow the wholesale abuse of the legal system or of law enforcement because of a political agenda. We must return to a time of equal justice under the law.
Yes, I’m a strong advocate for law enforcement. I served as a detective. But I also insist that anyone in law enforcement there commits a crime should face the consequences. However, no one in law enforcement should fear unfair retribution for simply doing their job. No more can leaders in law enforcement turn a blind eye against injustice against our brothers and sisters for political expediency.
Robert Michaels is CEO and Founder of Serve & Protect, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to serving the emotional wellness needs of public safety and medical providers. Founded in 2011, Serve & Protect has facilitated trauma services for more than 6500 seeking emotional assistance from a therapist. Michaels served as a MP with the Virginia National Guard and on patrol and as a Detective with Norfolk Police. Rob holds a BA from Columbia International University and a MA from Wheaton College (IL). In addition to leading Serve & Protect, he serves as host for the Guns’n’Hoses podcast and as Chaplain for the FBI Memphis Division and Brentwood TN Fire Department.