Why is it right?
And why is guilty until proven innocent wrong?
I think I have some kind of basic understanding but hopefully can learn more from your contributions.
Philosophy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Take the sentence, "Adam committed theft." If there is enough evidence to give this statement the truth value of 'True', we do so; if there is enough evidence to give this statement the truth value of 'False', we do so. The problem arises when there is not enough evidence to give the statement any truth value.
The philosopher can simply refuse to assign the statement a truth value, but a jury does not have that luxury. "Innocent until proven guilt" is a principle that says that a jury should give this statement the truth value of 'False' in this situation. The reason why modern societies accept this principle is practical, not epistemological.
The government is in charge of both prosecuting crimes and collecting evidence. If this principle were rejected and the government had desired this statement to be considered 'True' (e.g. Adam was peacefully protesting human rights violations by the government), than a government could charge Adam with a crime and then refuse to gather evidence, forcing the ambitious situation to occur, which in turn will cause the jury to return a truth value of 'True'.
Innocent until proven guilty is primarily a legal concept, as far as I know. It can be loosely translated NOT PUNISHED until proven guilty. It isn't hard to understand: Would you want to be punished for a crime you didn't commit?
Outside the courtroom, the maxim "innocent until proven guilty" is sometimes turned upside down. In time of war, for example, a guard may holler "Halt, who goes there?" And if no answer is forthcoming, the guard may shoot to kill.
Similarly, many people don't trust politicians or media reporters and "journalists." When corruption is rampant, we may broad brush certain classes of people as corrupt, except for the rare individuals who prove their innocence.
A similar question was asked here.
The presumption of innocence in law serves the same purpose as the null hypothesis in science. The purpose is to produce an accurate outcome in relation to the facts at hand and the seriousness of the question to be settled.
Criminal trials begin at the null hypothesis: the defendant’s actions, whatever they might have been, were not within the range of prohibited behavior. In the absence of proof, the default assumption is that the crime is randomly related to anything the defendant might have done.
The null hypothesis is fair.
The null hypothesis is rather an ingenious creation.... The utility of the null hypothesis is that the case is not prejudged-- you are not caught defending a relationship specified beforehand.
Hoover and Donovan, The Elements of Social Scientific Thinking, 6th ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), p. 81.
It does not have to be right or wrong in an absolute sense. It is a very practical disposition necessary to a prosperous society.
As a law abiding citizen that might one day get wrongly accused, it is your best interest that it is up to the cops to prove you are guilty rather than up to you to prove you did nothing wrong.
For example, if your neighbour is found dead at his home, it is clearly better for you that the cops have to prove you did it, rather than requiring you to prove you didn't. Especially if you just happen to have no alibi or witnesses.
"Guilty until proven innocent" on the other hand creates a society of perpetual insecurity where any law abiding citizen can be thrown behind bars on a struck of bad luck or the whim of an incompetent police officer. Why work hard or abide the law when you can get stripped of the fruit of your effort all the same ? As a result, authoritarian regimes are often economically backward in the long run.
Guilty till innocent isn't right because if the person did not commit the crime, it would have had unfair difficulties finding a job for example, but if you take the person for innocent, its status in the society will remain unchanged. If somebody gives you an apple and tells you it is bad,you won't eat it,no matter what the reality is,so something gets lost,but if this person tells you that the apple is good, there is a chance for this to be reality, so something gets created, and this is kindness. If you want to get employed, you rather hope that your boss will be kind than suspicious,won't you?
In UK law, it is the expression of the moral sentiment that in a just but imperfect society "It is better that ninety-nine guilty people go free than that one innocent person be unjustly convicted."
At a practical level, as pointed out in other examples, it helps to preserve the freedom of the individual and prevent society falling into a totalitarian police state.
'Innocent until proven guilty' is a principle of rational law, meant to ensure that the proper person is convicted of a crime. Any system of rational law starts from the common-sense principle that a person who commits a crime should be held accountable in proportion to the nature and severity of the crime. This is true whatever model of justice one uses — punitive, correctional, reparative, retributive... — because the point of law in this sense is to remove any incentive to do crime by by undercutting or counterbalancing any successful commission of a crime with some social payment sufficient to make success unappealing. It's economic logic: the law anticipates that someone commits a crime in order to gain something of value, and creates a cost sufficiently severe to turn that gained value into ash.
One of the ramifications of this is that punishing the wrong person for a given crime allows the person who actually committed the crime to go free. That contradicts the economic logic: the person who committed the crime gains whatever value they were seeking, and shuffles the cost off to someone else. This would encourage people to commit more crimes of that type — because that crime is allowed to be profitable — and defeats the central purpose of rational law.
'Innocent until proven guilty' is only tangentially meant to protect the innocent. It's main purpose is to protect the integrity of the law itself; to ensure that there is a proper correspondence between 'guilt' and 'punishment' so that the economic logic of the law holds true. One might think that outcome would follow naturally — I mean, who doesn't appreciate the tit-for-tat logic that's the lowest interpretation of this principle — but in fact, people tend to rush to judgement on irrational grounds. Sometimes people insist that a person they already dislike must be the one who committed the crime, because that's cognitively easier; sometimes people get outraged and decide that a crime must be punished, and aren't too picky about who gets the short end of the stick so long as it eases their outrage; sometimes weird social and political pressures come into play that lead people away from the actual criminals towards 'suspicious' individuals or group. The law (ideally) would like to prevent these miscarriages — because miscarriages of justice undercut the logic of the law and delegitimize it — and so it insists on a standard of proof to ensure that:
Therefore, it insists that everyone be treated as though they are innocent until that standard of proof is met. Yes, this means that some actual criminals are not held accountable for their crimes. That is unfortunate, but it preserves the intention and integrity of the law.