Whatever Happened to the Presumption of Innocence…

What happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law?

The mass media machine has been convicting suspects before trial since Lee Harvey Oswald in November 1963 but now, the epidemic of this Constitutional infringement has reached an unfathomable proportion. In today’s world of fast facts, we find ourselves inundated with information on suspects within hours of criminal investigations, thus, spurring a rush to judgment.

A new documentary has introduced a new dialogue about the media role in convictions that will surely have you questioning where the lines are truly drawn in our society.

On December 18, 2015, Netflix premiered one of its newest documentaries called Making a Murderer, featuring the story of Steven Avery. Born and raised in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, Avery was a guy with a below-average IQ and checkered past – but nothing that constituted odious violent tendencies. However, his family never fit into the township or county; therefore, when a sexual assault in 1985 occurred, he was an immediate (and only) suspect.

Filmed over a decade, documentarians, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, bring to light the corruption and bias perpetrated on Avery in both cases while challenging the judicial line within communities all over America. After being incarcerated for almost two decades for a crime he never committed, within two years of his release from prison, Avery found himself in the law enforcement cross hairs once again. However, this time, there was a $36M reason to defame him.

An example of this within our own community is the fact the Salisbury Police run weekly shoplifting suspects with justification that it is meant to serve as a deterrent. However, constitutionally, these suspects are supposed to be presumed innocent until a judge, jury or plea deal says otherwise.  Like Avery’s District Attorney, Ken Katz, our police rushes to broadcast these suspects’ names, mug shots and, sometimes treat us to the horrific scenario, in social media and local newscasts to fling a negative light on them.

Were we asleep when the presumption of innocence was eliminated from our inalienable rights or has law enforcement taken it upon itself to just disregard them?

This documentary is well worth at least one viewing as it provokes the viewers to examine the judicial abuse and malfeasance within their own communities. As Avery’s defense attorney, Jerry Buting laments, “We can all say we will never commit a crime, but we can never guarantee that someone will never accuse us of a crime. And if that happens, good luck in this criminal justice system.”

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