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Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?

Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?

  • Yes, "innocent" would be a welcome addition as an option.

    Votes: 9 26.5%
  • No, but we should treat "not guilty" as "innocent".

    Votes: 7 20.6%
  • No, the current system works fine. ('Splain yerself, Lucy)

    Votes: 16 47.1%
  • Something else.

    Votes: 2 5.9%

  • Total voters
    34

radcen

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Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?

We presently have "guilty" and "not guilty" as verdict options. "Not guilty" is often treated as "we still think you're guilty, we just didn't present a good enough case to convict you". Victims and/or their families often follow up a not guilty verdict with a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages, as the level of proof is lower.

As we have seen with so many exonerations in recent years, factually innocent people get convicted too often, so it stands to reason that there are more that are wrongly accused but beat the rap and are found not guilty... yet the "not guilty" still may face legal battles in the form of civil lawsuits, civil rights violation charges, and so on.

Should we add a third option of "innocent" for juries and/or judges to consider and use? Because it is now undeniable that factually innocent people are sometimes accused and charged, this would allow juries and/or judges to state, "We see no credible evidence whatsoever that this person is guilty, and as such, deem them to be factually innocent. They are hereby set free, and cannot face any further prosecution whatsoever for this particular crime." This would eliminate civil suits, civil rights violation charges, etc. A person who is deemed innocent shouldn't have to face a never-ending legal gauntlet simply because a family is emotionally upset (albeit understandably, but still...), or the DoJ is grandstanding.

Would it be perfect? Of course not. Human involvement eliminates any concept of perfection. Would it be an improvement and a step toward fairness (which justice is supposed to be about)? Yes, I believe so.
 

Fisher

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No, it should remain as it is.
 

davidtaylorjr

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Why? How would adding "innocent" as an option upset anything?
Because they are already innocent until proven otherwise. You don't prove someone innocent, they are already innocent. You have to prove them guilty thus wiping their innocent status away.
 

Ray410

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Because they are already innocent until proven otherwise. You don't prove someone innocent, they are already innocent. You have to prove them guilty thus wiping their innocent status away.

Very well stated.

The rare exception is by virtue of widespread, knowledgeable public opinion in some cases, such as OJ Simpson.

There are not enough exceptions to add yet another endless uncertainly to American precedent and belief.

It's offensive that the Liberals are doing their best to give the impression that the wrong verdict was reached in the George Zimmerman trial, the impression that Zimmerman is actually guilty and something went terribly wrong. He started out innocent and he walked out of court innocent of all charges.
 
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rocket88

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Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?

We presently have "guilty" and "not guilty" as verdict options. "Not guilty" is often treated as "we still think you're guilty, we just didn't present a good enough case to convict you". Victims and/or their families often follow up a not guilty verdict with a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages, as the level of proof is lower.

As we have seen with so many exonerations in recent years, factually innocent people get convicted too often, so it stands to reason that there are more that are wrongly accused but beat the rap and are found not guilty... yet the "not guilty" still may face legal battles in the form of civil lawsuits, civil rights violation charges, and so on.

Should we add a third option of "innocent" for juries and/or judges to consider and use? Because it is now undeniable that factually innocent people are sometimes accused and charged, this would allow juries and/or judges to state, "We see no credible evidence whatsoever that this person is guilty, and as such, deem them to be factually innocent. They are hereby set free, and cannot face any further prosecution whatsoever for this particular crime." This would eliminate civil suits, civil rights violation charges, etc. A person who is deemed innocent shouldn't have to face a never-ending legal gauntlet simply because a family is emotionally upset (albeit understandably, but still...), or the DoJ is grandstanding.

Would it be perfect? Of course not. Human involvement eliminates any concept of perfection. Would it be an improvement and a step toward fairness (which justice is supposed to be about)? Yes, I believe so.
Leave it as it is. A court case really determines legal culpability, not guilt or innocence.
 

radcen

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Leave it as it is. A court case really determines legal culpability, not guilt or innocence.
Legal culpability is predicated on guilt or innocence.



There are not enough exceptions to add yet another endless uncertainly to American precedent and belief.
Adding "innocent" as an option would actually eliminate some of the uncertainty.
 

Cephus

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Why? How would adding "innocent" as an option upset anything?
Because that's not how the system works. A person is accused of a crime. It is the job of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is actually guilty. If they do, the person is guilty and convicted. If they do not, the person is found not guilty and released. It's not the job of the defense to prove a person factually innocent, just to poke enough holes in the prosecution case that the jury has doubts. Certainly, if they have strong evidence that the individual is innocent, the prosecution is going to drop the case entirely.
 

Cephus

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Adding "innocent" as an option would actually eliminate some of the uncertainty.
It's not about certainty, it's about doubt in the prosecution case.
 

joko104

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No, but also it is not required for anyone to agree then the person was innocent.

It is rarely possible for a person to prove being innocent beyond a reasonable doubt either.
 

specklebang

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It's all just semantics.

Armchair legal experts:) will still make their own decisions, regardless of how it is phrased. Fortunately, public opinions are meaningless.
 

mak2

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I think the finding of not guilty has always been the case. It seems to me like way back in hte black and white Perry Mason days one of the shows talked about finding people not guilty but not innocent. Does the OP really think the Z man should get extra super not guilty status?
 

radcen

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I think the finding of not guilty has always been the case. It seems to me like way back in hte black and white Perry Mason days one of the shows talked about finding people not guilty but not innocent. Does the OP really think the Z man should get extra super not guilty status?
The OP poses the question in a generic sense. GZ is not, in anyway shape or form, specified either directly or indirectly. The OP, in fact, didn't follow the trial so the OP cannot say one way or another as far as that is concerned. In spite of the fact that GZ may be the current example for many, similar situations pop up routinely over time, and public policy should NEVER be about a single case anyway, hence the generic aspect of the question.

It should also be clarified (for those unable to understand the concept), that adding "innocent" as an option would not eliminate "not guilty" as an option.
 

Fisher

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Why? How would adding "innocent" as an option upset anything?
What is the legal difference in your mind between "not guilty" and "innocent" because if you are giving the jury a choice, then you will need to be able to define the difference in an objective, meaningful way or it is useless, and therefore unnecessary.
 

iacardsfan

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In theory. Not in practical real-world application.
And in theory adding "innocent" will help but in reality people minds are made up, and the verdict, whether it be guilty, not guilty, or innocent isn't going to change each individuals perception. By your logic we need to add "clearly guilty" verdict to persuade all those who believe that they should be acquitted to believing he/she is a criminal. Nothing we do is going to change the tunnel vision Americans have. Once they have the blinders on and decide something no manipulation of words is going to alter that opinion.
 

mak2

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For those of you that cant undertad the concpet, a trial is designed to find someone guilty, or not. Finding them innocent would require standards of proof of innoence, which are not necessary if the accused is not guilty. .
The OP poses the question in a generic sense. GZ is not, in anyway shape or form, specified either directly or indirectly. The OP, in fact, didn't follow the trial so the OP cannot say one way or another as far as that is concerned. In spite of the fact that GZ may be the current example for many, similar situations pop up routinely over time, and public policy should NEVER be about a single case anyway, hence the generic aspect of the question.

It should also be clarified (for those unable to understand the concept), that adding "innocent" as an option would not eliminate "not guilty" as an option.
 

radcen

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What is the legal difference in your mind between "not guilty" and "innocent" because if you are giving the jury a choice, then you will need to be able to define the difference in an objective, meaningful way or it is useless, and therefore unnecessary.
"Not guilty" would remain pretty much as it is now... the defendant may be guilty, but the burden of proof was not established.

"Innocent" would be something like... not only has the burden of proof not been established, but we believe this case is ridiculous and don't buy the charges/accusations at all, hence "innocent".

I do not believe "innocent" would be used often, but it would be a useful option to save some defendants from unnecessary additional prosecution. A factually innocent person... and they do exist... could be freed from after-the-fact political grandstanding such as civil rights violation charges, and so on.

"Not guilty" could still leave open the potential for civil suits, etc.



And in theory adding "innocent" will help but in reality people minds are made up, and the verdict, whether it be guilty, not guilty, or innocent isn't going to change each individuals perception. By your logic we need to add "clearly guilty" verdict to persuade all those who believe that they should be acquitted to believing he/she is a criminal. Nothing we do is going to change the tunnel vision Americans have. Once they have the blinders on and decide something no manipulation of words is going to alter that opinion.
You'd never be able to fix people's individual opinions and biases. The purpose would be to clean up some of the additional legal ramifications and spare some people who are indeed factually innocent from facing never-ending financial ruin from constantly having to spend every spare cent in court.
 

rocket88

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Legal culpability is predicated on guilt or innocence.
Not necessarily. Legal culpability is based on whether you are legally responsible for your actions. That's what the insanity defense is about, and that's what the Zimmerman verdict is about -- you may have done something, but legally you aren't responsible.
 

rocket88

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It's not about certainty, it's about doubt in the prosecution case.
And that's part of it too. You might think it's possible that they did it, but you're not 100% sure. Like OJ - I think he probably did it, but if I was on that jury there's certainly some reason to doubt it.
 

shrubnose

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Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?

We presently have "guilty" and "not guilty" as verdict options. "Not guilty" is often treated as "we still think you're guilty, we just didn't present a good enough case to convict you". Victims and/or their families often follow up a not guilty verdict with a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages, as the level of proof is lower.

As we have seen with so many exonerations in recent years, factually innocent people get convicted too often, so it stands to reason that there are more that are wrongly accused but beat the rap and are found not guilty... yet the "not guilty" still may face legal battles in the form of civil lawsuits, civil rights violation charges, and so on.

Should we add a third option of "innocent" for juries and/or judges to consider and use? Because it is now undeniable that factually innocent people are sometimes accused and charged, this would allow juries and/or judges to state, "We see no credible evidence whatsoever that this person is guilty, and as such, deem them to be factually innocent. They are hereby set free, and cannot face any further prosecution whatsoever for this particular crime." This would eliminate civil suits, civil rights violation charges, etc. A person who is deemed innocent shouldn't have to face a never-ending legal gauntlet simply because a family is emotionally upset (albeit understandably, but still...), or the DoJ is grandstanding.

Would it be perfect? Of course not. Human involvement eliminates any concept of perfection. Would it be an improvement and a step toward fairness (which justice is supposed to be about)? Yes, I believe so.



No, but I would support adding 'Not Proven.
 

Occam's Razor

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No, the current system works fine. ('Splain yerself, Lucy)

If guilty, you go to jail... if not guilty, you don't. How would innocent change this? It wouldn't.
 

radcen

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Not necessarily. Legal culpability is based on whether you are legally responsible for your actions. That's what the insanity defense is about, and that's what the Zimmerman verdict is about -- you may have done something, but legally you aren't responsible.
May not be discernible in every scenario, but guilt vs innocence determines if they even were your actions.
 

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Why? How would adding "innocent" as an option upset anything?
I assume with "Innocent" as an option, we'd still have the other two; "not guilty" and "guilty." Under our system we "presume innocence until proven guilty." A third option of in effect label the not guilty as "possibly guilty but we're not sure"; a label that will stigmatize them for the rest of their lives as well as help to define their legacy after they pass away.
 
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